2019 wasn’t meant to be a winning year for NaNoWriMo. I signed up this year for one purpose – distraction. I didn’t want to face the fact that my writing mentor-neighbor-friend would die before Thanksgiving. She questioned my decision to sign up for this challenge, insisting that I was avoiding the publication of my memoir, the memoir that she had finished editing a couple of months ago. “Just publish the damn thing,” she said about the 9th of November. Instead, I went home and added more than 2400 words to the NaNoWriMo project.
Things turned for the worst the next day. My friend began to fail. Suddenly bedridden, she looked out her window at the autumn leaves. “Do you remember the story ‘The Last Leaf’ by O. Henry?” She asked. When I admitted I had no recollection, she offered a brief synopsis. I followed the gaze of her eyes to see only a handful of leaves on the branch outside her window and asked if she was watching for the last leaf to fall. She smiled and closed her eyes.
The next few visits were painfully silent as that one last leaf swayed in the wind. On the 21st day of November the final leaf drifted slowly to the earth as my friend took her last breath.
My takeaway here is not about not finishing the novel. It’s about making the right choices for each moment. Time is precious and I was blessed with the time to sit at my friend’s bedside during those final days. Sad as it is, she died with peace, grace and dignity – just the way she lived her life.
I knew this would be the day thanks to Amazon’s tracking devices. While meeting with my writer’s group, I kept my phone next to me, in silent mode, glancing at the tiny screen with each vibration, stalking the texts. “Your package has left the facility.” A while later, “Your package is out for delivery.” And then, “Your package is two stops away.” I tried to listen to everyone read but the distractions kept coming. Buzz, buzz, buzz.
I would be a useless critique today, my head following the path of the Amazon delivery truck, but I tried to be a good listener. The phone was silent for a bit. I looked back at the last message. Two stops. They should have delivered it by now. Maybe they got lost. Maybe they lied.
It was my turn to read. “I didn’t bring anything,” I apologized. “You see, I thought I would have my proof copies to share.” I held up my phone. “They’re two stops away.” I used my allotted time to talk about keywords, back of the book blurbs and the benefits of self-publishing.
Buzzzzzz. I looked down at the phone. “Delivered.” Suddenly it was real. I could run home, rip open the box, and hold the proof of my efforts. And so I did.
I ran my fingers across the shiny cover. I flipped to the back side, read the blurb. It needs some editing. I checked the interior. It needs some editing. My job is not done. But even scarier, as I hold this piece of work in my hands, I think, is this something I truly want to release out into the world?