Searchlights & Signal Flares


Tiny Lights' On-line Writer's Exchange

How do you feel about endings? (07/15/14)



Featured writer: Laura Diana Lopez



Contributors this month:
Andrea Somerville
Arlene Mandell
Becky Lewellen Povich
Carol Mertz
Don Edgers
Jenean McBrearty
Joan Zerrien
Kay Butzin
Laura Diana Lopez
Marilyn Petty
Marlene Cullen
Sara Etgen-Baker
Susan Bono
Suzanne White
Theresa Sanders
T'Mara Goodsell


Love/Hate

by Laura Diana Lopez

It's a love-hate relationship through and through. I see endings as a blessed release, a letting go of what's been in order to make room for what shall be. That's the bigger part of me who believes there's really no such thing as endings, but rather, infinite evolutions. Then there's the smaller part of me that wants to hold nostalgia and history in the very cells of my heart, never letting go of anyone or anything I've loved.

This is especially true when the end comes to the tune of some else's drum, out of my preferential rhythm. These endings tell me, "I'm not done yet, but I guess I'll have to be." In such times I let the grief in its revolving cycles wash over me like ocean waves and rippling streams, til I come out the other side, albeit a little soggy and bedraggled at first--until the sun of a new shore warms me and I find myself once again intrigued by the curiosity of the yet-to-be-explored terrain. It's a love-hate relationship I have with endings, but I know the new beginning isn't far behind.

Laura Diana Lopez is a writer and healer with certifications in Intuitive Energy Medicine, Conscious Bodywork, Reiki, Yin Yoga, Holistic Health Coaching, and advanced degrees in psychology. She is included in a book, You Are Whole, Perfect, and Complete Just as You Are..


http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00SGS43JC


In Defense of Clichés

  by Andrea Somerville

I've said good bye to a number of things recently: my soft, gentle Daisy, who loved me unconditionally for fifteen years; the family summer cottage, heaven on earth, where at fourteen, I imagined watching the sun set with my husband.

I said goodbye to the dream that I would someday have my own children--the feel of warm, soft baby hair against my chest, homemade cookies for an after school snack, summer days swimming in the lake, graduations, accomplishments, loves and heartbreak.

And then the loss of my father, my hero and the love of my life. This remains incomprehensible. My strong, smiling, loving father. Gone.

Saying goodbye is hard to do. Really hard. I struggle with endings. I hear myself saying "Never? I'm never going to see them again. NE-VER." That one word just doesn't make sense. Never. The enormity of it overwhelms me. It brings me to my emotional knees. I can't seem to comprehend this simple idea.

I repeat the word over and over in my mind, as if saying it enough times will make it real. That finally, my brain will accept this concept. But it doesn't, it just won't stick. I actually find myself shaking my head, trying to make sense of it. Trying to make the words fuse into my brain. Trying to make my heart understand.

That's when the pleading and bickering begins:
Heart: "It's like a piece of me is dying, it's like my heart is being torn apart!"
Brain: "Oh just stop it!"
Heart: "But my heart is breaking!"
Brain: "You sound so cliché! Don't be so trite."
Heart: "SO?! That's what it feels like."


Then the first two "selves" fade to the back ground as the third character moves into the spotlight with a simple soliloquy:

"It's ok. Say what you need to say. That's why those clichés exist. It does feel like I've been punched in the chest, like my heart has been ripped out of my body. It is as if life can't possibly go on." And it's ok to wonder, "How will I survive?" The pain is real. Go ahead and feel those feelings. Express yourself without judgment. We are all human who have faced unwanted change. And whether it is changes, endings, or nevers, express them.

At this point, the three selves, brain and heart and soul unite in defense of the cliché. The fact that people use common language merely emphasizes that all humans feel similar emotions, all real, raw, and important. So, yes, I defend clichés. Whether expressed in a cliché or flowery soliloquy, it's human to be saddened by the end of something wonderful.

I offer this: The next time someone reaches for a cliché to express pain that wraps mind, heart, and soul in a cruel embrace and their body physically aches from sheer emotion, try not to focus on their chosen words, simply have compassion for another soul trying to make sense of never.


Andrea lives in Rochester New York, surrounded by family, friends, and her dog Ivy. A music teacher by day and writer of occasional thoughts by night, she is living the dream.

A Last Look

  by Arlene Mandell

Weep weep weep. Here's my last Searchlight:

Endings can be profoundly important. Let's skip the drama-drenched ending of a marriage, which can fill an entire novel, and often has. And the ending of a best-friendship with its betrayal and cold-hearted snubbing on the front steps of the high school.

Take a poem, revised many times and influenced by a question pinned to the cork board:
"What does the last stanza, last line, last word add to the poem?" When the poem is published, the editor omits the last line. And the work limps off the page.

Now we are approaching the ending of our beloved Tiny Lights, which has inspired and connected many writers for many years (15 in my own experience). A famous novelist whose name escapes me advises: "End each story with an image. It lasts longer."

Here's mine: Susan Bono deserves applause, confetti, and a lifetime supply of boutique coffee confections delivered daily by a Troy Donahue look-alike in a sarong.

Arlene Mandell, who wandered west from Closter, NJ, is grateful to Susan for helping her find new writing communities in Sonoma County.

Part of the Journey

  by Becky Lewellen Povich

How do I feel about endings? Hmm, what a perfect question for the final Searchlights & Signal Flares! It's hard to believe I've been submitting entries, although not consistently, for five years.

So, again, how do I feel about endings? Most endings are considered to be either terribly sad or poignant. Divorces, deaths, graduations, relocating, losing or quitting a job, break ups with long-time friends. But those sad/poignant endings had to occur for new beginnings to happen. A new part of our journey here on earth. New studies, new careers, new places, new friends, new loves.

Searchlights & Signal Flares may be ending as a monthly question posted online, but I will always feel the warmth and the light of those who shared their thoughts, answering those somewhat unanswerable questions, posed to us by Susan Bono. And I know she will keep all of us in her heart as well.

"Sometimes our light goes out, but is blown again into instant flame by an encounter with another human being." - Albert Schweitzer

Becky Lewellen Povich began writing in 2001 and finally completed and published her first book, From Pigtails to Chin Hairs, a memoir, in November 2013. She is currently busy marketing and promoting her book while also working on the sequel. She also loves speaking to groups about realizing what their talents are in life, and going for their dreams, no matter what age they are.Becky’s blog

Appropriate Endings

  by Carol Mertz

Endings can pose problems for the writer. They must occur at just the right time, neither too soon, nor too late. When novels end, we want our readers to be satisfied with our plot resolutions. I've always suspected, depending on how a plot unfolds, there's only one right ending. The writer sets up the scenario, it's up to him/her to unwind it appropriately. Most likely, the story itself should dictate the ending. However, this should not preclude a surprise ending.

At the close of Joseph Conrad's Victory: An Island Tale, readers know a bad finale for the characters is forthcoming; the author has, in fact, shown us there can be no exit. And yet, the energy of the unraveling and the amount of action in the final pages certainly engage the reader to the last. It's worth analyzing how Conrad closed this lesser-known of his novels. Notice how his ending is closely and rightly linked to the disclosures of the preceding portions of the story. The ending seems true to the characters. In my view, the tale and the structure of this novel, as well as the ending, go hand in hand.

To summarize, the story that precedes the ending will dictate the ending. Nevertheless, we can surprise our readers and, especially if concluding a mystery, we probably should. That said, we don't need to religiously "tell all." We can leave some endings up to conjecture.


Carole Mertz enjoys writing essays and short stories from Parma, Ohio. Contact her at carolemertz@cox.net

All Good Things Must Come to an End

  by Don Edgers

I'm not what one might call "emotional," BUT will admit to bipolar reactions to endings, or written conclusions, to what I've written over several decades.

I wasn't blessed with the natural ability to write or excel in scholarly endeavors, so my college- educated parents and grandparents sucked or gritted their teeth (two were dentists) and/or rolled their eyes when I confessed lunch and recess were my favorite "subjects."

This would explain the joy I experienced when writing THE END on my early, forced-to-write, compositions in grade school, comparable to the euphoria felt at the end of each school year.
Then there's the punch-in-the-gut feeling when I came to the end of writing my first book, An Island In Time: Growing up in the 1940s. I wept for joy when I read the final chapter out loud. Ending a 10-year writing odyssey was overwhelming.

I was half way finished with, An Island in Time II: Coming of age in the 1950's, when I suffered a stroke. My left hand lacked strength and coordination needed to maintain my 35 WPM typing speed. The effort expended just to type my last name (E-D-G-E-R-S) with my wobbly left index finger caused sweat to form on my brow. One might understand my feeling of relief when I came to the end of writing the last half of my ‘50s tome - sort of like reaching the end of reading genealogy in the first nine chapters of "1 Chronicles." Amen?!

As we adherents to Tiny Lights come to its end I conclude with the bitter-sweet refrain: So long, it's been good to know you - - - Susan Bono, Arlene Mandell, Betty Winslow, David S. Johnson, Jordan E. Rosenfeld, Betty Rodgers, Ken Rodgers, Christine Falcone, Marilyn Petty, Catherine Crawford, Becky Povich, Claudia Larson, Theresa Sanders, Sara Baker, Barbara Shine, Rodney L. Merrill, Elaine Webster, Glanda Widger, et.al.


Don Edgers is still finding endings in Port Orchard, WA. See his website:
www.anislandintime.com


What Happened

  by Jenean McBrearty

In Frank Stockton's "The Lady Or the Tiger," we never learn what's behind the protagonist's chosen door. Allegedly, this is to let the reader decide his fate based on what we think about the Princess who signaled one or the other. Existentially, speaking, it's not the outcome that matters, but the all-life-is-a-choice message itself that's important. The author wants us to explore the love, jealousy, kindness, selflessness or selfishness of the woman who allegedly loves him.

However, for reader's like me, the ending is crappy. The story has an ending, i.e. it stops, but it has no resolution. I want to know if the poor bastard in the arena marries or is eaten. This is supposed to be a story, not a philosophic exercise. What does the author want to say about women, love, and jealousy? He's posed the scenario, let him tell us his answer and we can debate it. After all, he hasn't told us much about the Princess, so how are we to gain insight into the author's characters as individual people? I won't be reading anything else Frank Stockton has written.

When it comes to fiction, I'm a realist. Romeo and Juliet is a sappy-sweet teen-age love story, and the ending is great—-they would have made horrible parents and Shakespeare killed them both, thankfully. But at least we know what happened and that is the key question in any story: what finally happens? I got aboard the author's story train, traversed every peak and valley of the problem at hand, and I want to get to the destination. When the train stops, I don't want to be told to keep walking. No lame "far be it for me to give you the finale-—you're on your own" nonsense allowed. If there's a point to the story, now is the time for the author to make it.

Granted, how or when to end a story is a subjective authorial decision, and, once submitted for publication, sometimes an editorial decision. For example, in a story I wrote entitled "Poet's Corner," the editor thought the last paragraph weakened the story rather than strengthening it. The hero gives the heroine the last words of a "poem" she was buying one word at a time, which was forbidden by the government. The "poem" is actually the first lines of the Declaration of Independence..."..and among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." My last paragraph had them curling up on a barren bed in a cold room warmed only by their love. How badly did I want the piece to be published?

Working well with editors is crucial to success, so I said to myself, "Is the reader going to be disappointed knowing the poem but not that the woman realized the guy really loved her?" My answer was no.

What do I feel about endings? They should answer two questions: what finally happened, and will the reader be satisfied?

Jenean McBrearty is a retired teacher who lives in Kentucky, takes on-line classes, drinks tea, and pretends she's a princess. Or, on a cloudy day, Norma Desmond. Her fiction, photographs, and poetry have been published in many journals and anthologies. Her novel, The 9th Circle, was published by Barbarian Books. Raphael Redcloak and Retrolands were serialized on Jukepop.
Jenean-McBrearty.com


Feeding the Fire

  by Joan Zerrien

Endings alarm me. Even when I'm expecting them, my first reaction is to equate endings with loss, often tinged by personal failure. It takes effort to accept the inescapable workings of time, changing circumstances and mortality itself. This despite a lifetime of experience that indicates each ending brings a beginning; if not in one realm then in another, if not to me to someone else.

The past months have brought significant endings my way. I sold my home in the mountains (to a family whose turn it is now to enjoy that wonderful house). A former lover got married, thus ending fantasies of "someday." The retreats I'd planned for summer fell through and I've lost the collaboration of colleagues (but it's time to present on my own). My teenage daughter confides in me less and less (but she's navigating our separation beautifully, right on schedule). My mother-in-law died a month ago (but I spent quality time with her and grew closer with my in-laws). There's the dimming of Tiny Lights, that beacon that drew me to write after thirty years of silence (but I applaud the editor as she responds to the call of her soul).

As I relinquish alarm, I allow myself to be carried forward into the eternal cycle of dissolution and emergence. The goddess Kali comes to mind, she who encompasses both creation and destruction as absolute necessities each to the other.

Now the furnace doors of relinquishment have opened, I'm looking around to see what else I might toss upon the pyre. There are unreliable relationships with unreliable people. There's the shapeless garment of sorrow lying on the floor; throw that on the flames. There are many stories I tell myself about who I am and what has happened; most of those can go. I rummage through my mental and physical closets, tossing aside habits of thought and behavior along with extra spatulas and worn-out t-shirts. Tenant problems? Sell the property. Rethink everything.

Bowing to inevitability I wriggle out of my old skin, emerging fresh and expectant.
As fast as I embrace endings, new beginnings knock at the door. I've found weekly and monthly writing groups. I'm exploring a new community, drawn by their speaker series. I'm meeting new people and it's stimulating; among them I expect to find a few new friends.

I can only hope that when this much-loved earth suit of mine finally gives out I will embrace a new beginning. Whether it be a continuation of soul or dissolution into the atoms of the universe hardly matters. I'm not there yet and when I am, I hope to move into the unknown with curiosity, a beginner's mind.

Joan Zerrien lives in Woodland Hills CA and has come to terms with the fact that she doesn’t need six spatulas.

Endings Make Me Feel Melancholy

  by Kay Butzin


Dear Susan,

I'm happy for you and wish you much joy in your new endeavors, but I feel sorry for myself because Tiny Lights will no longer be arriving in my inbox once a month. I've always enjoyed the content and have appreciated the opportunity to submit and see my work published in your journal.

As a kid I expected a hello to follow each goodbye, the next day or the next week-—or sometime. I didn't suspect that goodbye could mean I'll never see you again until Mary Kay Stevens died one weekend when we were in third grade.

Since then, endings have gotten no easier. Age hasn't improved my ability to let go and accept change. And, though I recognize this one as positive for you, I can't help but feel sad to read that the little beacon will soon flicker out.

Sincerely,
Kay



Kay Butzin sends her farewell from Rockport, Texas.

Love/Hate

  by Laura Diana Lopez

It's a love-hate relationship through and through. I see endings as a blessed release, a letting go of what's been in order to make room for what shall be. That's the bigger part of me who believes there's really no such thing as endings, but rather, infinite evolutions. Then there's the smaller part of me that wants to hold nostalgia and history in the very cells of my heart, never letting go of anyone or anything I've loved.

This is especially true when the end comes to the tune of some else's drum, out of my preferential rhythm. These endings tell me, "I'm not done yet, but I guess I'll have to be." In such times I let the grief in its revolving cycles wash over me like ocean waves and rippling streams, til I come out the other side, albeit a little soggy and bedraggled at first--until the sun of a new shore warms me and I find myself once again intrigued by the curiosity of the yet-to-be-explored terrain. It's a love-hate relationship I have with endings, but I know the new beginning isn't far behind.

Laura Diana Lopez is a writer and healer with certifications in Intuitive Energy Medicine, Conscious Bodywork, Reiki, Yin Yoga, Holistic Health Coaching, and advanced degrees in psychology. She is included in a book, You Are Whole, Perfect, and Complete Just as You Are..


http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00SGS43JC


Around and Around

  by Marilyn Petty

For every ending there is a beginning, for every beginning there is an ending. Or so philosophers and pundits posit. An old truism with a twist, now that I am in my 8th decade where endings far outweigh any beginnings I may yet have the good fortune to experience.

I look back at all the endings that have happened — family and friends gone, familiar things displaced or no longer relevant. I try to be judicious about bringing up The Way Things Used To Be, as if they were always better. Not true, of course. Sometimes the prospect of endings that are to come are scary, sometimes I am sad at what is now lost and wonder at the how and why, as if there were answers. And do I really need to know?

Ancient traditions explain life as a circle with no beginnings or endings, just a continuous flow from one into another, like day into night, night into day, good or bad. A comfortable concept unless the endlessness of going around and around forever drives you to madness and all you want to do is get off that cockamamie merry-go-round.

Doris Day warbles "Que sera, sera" and maybe it sounds hokey, but what will be, will be, for with every beginning there is an ending. Whatever. And so said, I shall put an end to this near surfeit of clichés and wish everyone happy endings to all of their beginnings.

Marilyn Petty begins and ends most days early to bed, early to rise in Sonoma County, California. At least, she tries.

Dancing Into the Ending

  by Marlene Cullen

I feel the same way about endings as I do beginnings: apprehensive, excited and a little bit scared, much like going to seventh grade dances.

I'm always apprehensive about new things. And "endings" is signaling the beginning of something new. That new thing might be known or unknown. It might be as simple as the box-step or as complicated as the tango.

Even though change can be difficult, I'm excited about changing things up. And although the same 'ol can be comfortable, the status quo can also get stifling and boring. Out with Chubby Checker's Twist; in with The Bernie.

A little bit scared makes us feel alive and keeps us on our toes and that's where we want to be when the music starts, ready to dance into the new, the lively and the unknown. I just learned The Bernie is now out and The Wobble is in. By the time you read this, The Wobble will be out and who knows what the next dance step will be. That's the way it is . . . just when you get comfortable with something, it changes.

I remember when I used to answer the Searchlights questions almost every month. And then Life happened, as it does. Some things get pushed into the way back, making room for the new.

Being the optimist, I like to think change is for the better, even though we don't always understand it at the time . . . sometimes we may never understand.

I used to go to junior high school dances every Friday afternoon, flirt with the boys and have a great time. I've been dancing with the same person for 48 years (some things go on for a long time), have three adult children and an adorable granddaughter who will dance with me anytime, anyplace, any kind of dancing.

But we're talking about endings here . . . and I'm thinking specifically about Tiny Lights ending. How do I feel about that? Kind of sad, and also excited for The Next Thing. . . whatever it will be. Susan, care to dance with me? I'll let you lead.

Marlene Cullen dances on The Write Spot Blog --- the write spot for writers to use writing prompts, be inspired, post writing and receive comments on their writing.
www.TheWritespot.us (Click on Blog in the green oval.)


The End of Something

  by Sara Etgen-Baker

In a village called Aerendyl there once lived an inexperienced but talented elfin scribe named Lessien Nénharma. Now it happened one day that Lessien came upon an email message from an editor at one of the major scribal presses.

With bated breath, Lessien opened the email.

"Dearest Scribe: I've received your synopsis and the first two chapters of your novel. Although your scribings and story line show great promise, your characters are flat and lack humanity. Your subplots are intriguing but seem disconnected from the major plot. The narrative arc is weak, and your story has no clear ending. So, I can't accept your manuscript at this time. Sincerely, Amroth Súron, Senior Editor Drannor Press"

Lessien threw down her scribal quill and Skyped her instructor, Lady Telemmaitë.

"Lady Telemmaitë, whatever am I to do?" Lessien fought back the tears. "Tell me. Is this the end of my scribal career?"

"No, my fellow scribe. Rejection doesn't mark the end of your career. Rather, rejection heralds a new beginning."

"You speak in riddles, Lady Telemmaitë. I don't understand!"

"Tis quite simple, my accomplished apprentice. Toss out your old manuscript." Lady Telemmaitë leaned forward. "This time begin with the ending in mind."

"So I focus on how the plot ends, right?"

"No, scribe, no! Focus on your characters; for your characters, their motives, and their development drive their actions and set the plot in motion—not the other way around. Begin with where they will end up."

"I understand, Lady Telemmaitë, but I feel so overwhelmed and am afraid to begin again."
"Begin one chapter at a time. Its end will determine the next one's beginning." Lady Telemmaitë smiled. "Take heart. Chapters begin and end, but fear thee not thine own endings, for they are but beginnings in disguise. Now grab thy quill and begin your next chapter!"

Sara Etgen-Baker is learning to embrace the beginnings and endings in her own life. You may read about her scribal musings at
saraetgenbaker.blogspot.com/


Room to Grow

  by Susan Bono

I used to think I loved endings. I'm one of those cheaters who skips ahead in a book to find out how things turn out. Even if I'm enjoying a movie or play, I'll check my Indiglo watch to gauge how soon the end is coming. I clip and save obituaries, and have long appreciated the value of a good memorial service to drive home a sense of finality. As a kid, I was always trying to sneak a peek at the birthday and Christmas gifts. I couldn't let a car trip pass without at least one "Are we there yet?"

But I've been fooling myself. My eagerness is not for endings, but for the payoff just before the finish arrives. I'm all about the emotional throb as the credits roll, the orgiastic frenzy of opening presents, the bouquet the moment before it's presented. I've learned that endings themselves are either unexciting or painful. I don't like picking my way out of the theater over spilled popcorn and soda or cleaning up torn wrapping paper. I hate how let down I feel after a party's over, how empty I've felt leaving a cemetery. When the end truly comes, a hole the size of whatever is over opens up and demands to be filled. It might take all you've got to keep from falling in.

What I really love are middles. The awkward first steps of a new enterprise have been endured; there's plenty of momentum. It's still about potential. Anything might happen! Beginnings demand hope and courage; endings require acknowledgement of loss. Maybe that's why it took me over a year to order the bronze plaque that rests over my parents' graves. Maybe that's why my brother's grave remains unmarked nearly two years after his passing and why I can't ask my sister-in-law about it. Even a happy ending is a kind of death. The "happily ever after" may continue, but once the curtain drops, the story's over for the audience.

Over the years I've become increasingly ending avoidant. Evidence of my failure to finish surrounds me at every turn. All the books with markers somewhere in the last third of the story, hundreds of unsorted papers, all the unfinished essays, the home improvement projects still in the "Wouldn't it be nice?" stage. I even dread the moment of truth when I'm out to dinner and must speak my order, because making that decision puts an end to all the other flavors I might have enjoyed.

But without the space that appears when something finishes, there is no room to start something new. That's why I've been asking myself what the equivalent of a bronze plaque might be to acknowledge the life of Tiny Lights. This overdue Searchlights & Signal Flares column was supposed to be a kind of capper, and I suppose it is. After this emailed issue of Sparks, there will be no more questions for readers to answer, except, perhaps, whether you'd like to stay on my mailing list. I have plans to archive the TL website, but even after that, I'm not sure it will feel over. I only know the hole TL will leave behind has yet to fully reveal itself.

I hope I eventually do everything it takes to bring Tiny Lights to a satisfying conclusion. It was built and sustained by the trust and good will of many souls, and deserves to be laid to rest with dignity. I need to remember that endings are also an act of faith; something new not only can but will grow to fill the emptiness left behind. And so I approach this ending believing that readers and writers who have felt supported or entertained over the course of the last 20 years will carry a memory or two with them, even after the curtain falls or there are no more pages to turn. May these memories help spark other bright beginnings and keep us connected always.


Susan Bono is trying to love endings in Petaluma, CA.

Facing It

  by Suzanne White

Raelene scrutinized me as I sat on her couch discussing bodywork options. I'd been a hospice massage therapist for several years, using the term massage loosely. One day I might be needed to rub the feet of a 92 year old. On another, I become a sympathetic ear to a grieving family member.

Stories had been circulating in the hospice office about Raelene. She was a true fighter, radical in some eyes. She spent the last 5 years trying chemo and radiation. When that didn't work she tried cancer boot camp, colon cleansing and anything else that promised remission. And yet she still had to look stage 4 ovarian cancer straight in the eye.

Giving up and coming to terms with dying had not been an option for Raelene. The social worker confided in me that once Raelene truly surrendered she would go quickly.

"How about you just work on my back. I'm in a lot of pain. And oh, I have this tumor blocking my colon, could you move that out of the way?" She smiled wryly.

This could be her last massage. I thought as I looked at her rail thin frame. I understood this reluctance to give up. Raelene and I were the same age, 54. She had grown children and grandchildren. There were still 30 or 40 good years left.

She had a friend visiting who helped her undress for her massage in the master bedroom. I waited in a smaller bedroom eyeing the bookshelf. It was littered with titles about cancer. This room was her sanctuary. Scattered around were essential oils, herbal tinctures, a chi machine and an ionic footbath, a place where she came for hope. I understood her M.O.

It takes courage to rebuke traditional medicine, especially when the professionals see chemo and radiation as a means to an end. For many it will certainly be the end.

I gain about three new hospice clients every month and lose one or two every couple of months. I am getting more comfortable with the cycles of life, especially the last chapter. Most of my clients are older. I try to rationalize that they have lived a good long life. But saying goodbye in the end no matter what the terms is never easy.

The more I work with hospice, the more I am filled with this hyper awareness about my own end of life. Right now I am healthy but I often see life as a fleeting summer. The passage of time, the days that once grew longer now getting shorter. The end is inevitable. I know this for sure.

My spiritual path teaches me that I am a spiritual being with a body. When my body dies my spirit will translate to another form. This is also a cycle of life. Contemplation about this brings me some peace of mind. But loving my family and friends is the balm that soothes my heart.


Suzanne White of Northfield, Mn makes her living as a hospice massage therapist, art teacher and videographer. She write to stay sane.


Nana Do?

  by Theresa Sanders

"Oh, no!" my son Dave bellowed from his kitchen. I went running in from the living room, holding two-year-old Sawyer--Dave's son, my first grandbaby--in my arms. It didn't take long to notice the object of Dave's frustration: a big puddle of strawberry-flavored milk spilled on the counter. The sippy-cup that had held it lay on its side, just within reach of precocious toddler hands. Dave's voice went stern. "Sawyer, did you do that?"

Sawyer snuggled closer within my protection. Then, seconds later, his head popped up from my shoulder, and with a smile as wide as his sweet blue eyes, he pointed to the offending "pink milk" and said: "What Nana do?"

Dave and I broke out laughing. We simply couldn't help ourselves. It seemed our little angel had just learned the fine art of passing the buck.

This is one of many stories I could relate about my darling grandbaby. In a very short time, Sawyer and I have become so attached. It amazes me how quickly that happens, the connection of souls. Still, truth be told, I was a reluctant Nana. When the announcement came, I was thrilled for my son and daughter-in-law, of course, but it felt like something had ended. Youth, perhaps, or maybe dreams yet unfulfilled.

In any case, I've never been good at endings. I tend to hang on to things. I hang on to people, to ideas, to stories. I hang on to wistful moments and tender memories, poignant passages and books with frayed pages. So imagine my sadness when I heard that one of my favorite online places, Tiny Lights, was ending. Being part of Tiny Lights has been a wonderful experience, and I've learned so much. Our beloved editor, Susan Bono, has given so much of herself to this labor of love, not only in just the sheer work it's taken to bring this to us month after month, but in her wise words and lovely, lyrical writing. I will miss her beautiful voice coming regularly into my life most of all.

But contrary to the old adage that every beginning has an ending, I'm starting to see a greater truth: that every ending can be a new beginning if we let it. Change, of course, is inevitable, but life not only still goes on after an ending, it opens us up to new possibilities. This is a fairly elementary observation, it's true. But sometimes the hardest lessons to learn are the easiest to see.

So what Nana do? Well, my daughter Holly has given me two more darling grandbabies, one-year-old Timmy and four-month-old Mia, to love. So I'm kind of getting the hang of this Nana thing. By way of my children and grandchildren, I'm coming to see endings as forever beginnings - and I'm learning to embrace them with all my heart.

Theresa Sanders lives near St. Louis, Missouri, where she is sending long distance gratitude and best wishes for forever beginnings to editor and dear friend, Susan Bono. Theresa would love to connect with you. Please drop by her Facebook author page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Theresa-Sanders/208490939276032?ref=hl or email her at:TheresaLSanders@charter.net

The Treasure After

  by T'Mara Goodsell

A great ending is such a paradox. It takes what is sometimes enormous conflict in a story and reduces it to a resolution that is greater than the sum of its parts. It elevates the importance of the piece from our minds to our hearts. It allows us to let go because the story has transcended and now will live on.

A great ending takes the distress of conflict and transforms it into the treasure of meaning and understanding, allowing us to walk away all the richer.

When I've finished the very best writing, I'm left feeling a sense of grief that it's over, but I also feel the endless buoyancy that comes from feeling uplifted and inspired and renewed and changed for the better. The enormity of that feeling is testimony to the greatness of the work.

That is the way I feel about Tiny Lights. Thank you, Susan. A part of Tiny Lights will flicker like an eternal flame in my heart. So many lights—even tiny ones—leave such an enormous glow.


T’Mara Goodsell writes, teaches, and searches for light from Saint Charles, Missouri. Visit her blog at
http://messageinabloggletheartofbeingbroken.blogspot.com.


Searchlights Editor:

Susan Bono

Columnists:

C. Larson, B. Povich, M. Petty, C. Crawford, T. Sanders

Columnists Emeriti: Christine Falcone, David S. Johnson, Betty Rodgers, Jordan E. Rosenfeld, Betty Winslow


Susan Bono is a writing coach, editor and freelance writer living in Petaluma, CA. She has published Tiny Lights: A Journal of Personal Narrative since 1995, along with its online counterpart here at tiny-lights.com. She conducts creative writing classes in Petaluma and Santa Rosa and co-hosts the quarterly Speakeasy Literary Saloon at the Aqus Café in Petaluma. She's on the boards of Petaluma Readers Theatre and the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference. She is still writing a postcard a day. Her most recent publishing credits include Petaluma Readers Theatre, KRCB’s Mouthful, Milk and Ink, and Passager Magazine.

Marilyn Petty is a dyed-in-the wool Midwesterner, a long-ago émigré to California and a fortunate resident of Sonoma County, CA. She taught weaving through the SRJC for 8 years and was the reporter, essayist, editor and publisher of the Redwood Empire Handweavers and Spinners Guild for 10 years. When not tangling with yarns, she is unknotting words, writing poetry and personal essays. She putters in the garden when words fail her.

Catherine Crawford is a former technical writer, editor, and course materials developer for high tech industries. She has taught college English at the four-year degree level, published two award winning chapbooks of poetry, and written articles for 52perfectdays.com, a Portland, Oregon online travel magazine. She works as an editor in Vancouver, Washington. Her email: greenwriter1960@gmail.com

Claudia Larson, in her childhood, wrote long letters to her best-friend cousin and enthralled herself by writing a heart-rending story of two orphans. She writes fewer letters nowadays and prefers writing poetry and memoirs of her North Dakotan farm girl days. She is not yet an orphan, has six siblings and lives in Sebastopol, CA.

Becky Povich lives near St. Louis, Missouri. Although not young in "people years," she's only been writing for ten of those. Getting her first book completed, a memoir, is her current short-term goal. She can be reached at Writergal53@aol.com, or visit her blog at www.beckypovich.blogspot.com.

Theresa Sanders lives in suburban St. Louis, Missouri, where she is completing a novel. A former award-winning technical writer and consultant, she managed a Documentation and Training department before turning to her first love, creative writing. Her stories appear regularly in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. Theresa welcomes email and would love to hear from you. Contact her at: TheresaLSanders@charter.net

Thanks to all who participated this month. It's good to know you're out there! We're looking forward to hearing from you and those you inspired sometime soon! Check this column each month to see what's new. Return to Searchlights & Signal Flares menu for future topics and guidelines.

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