Fiction as Self-Help – Dream of Orchids

“Can’t you let her go?” I asked gently. “Isn’t it time?”

He bent his head, and I saw his grief again. “I don’t want to let her go. As long as I can feel pain, she’ll stay alive for me.”

From Dream of Orchids by Phyllis A. Whitney

You notice I am writing about grief. Again.

Doesn’t it ever go away?

Does it ever get old?

Short answer: No.

As I was reading this light fiction book – which, by the way, was quite good! – I ran across the passage, quoted above, and dog-eared the page. I don’t like doing that… dog-earing, I mean… but I wanted to come back and write about it. It’s so easy to lose a few lines and never be able to find them again.

When I finished reading the book, I put it in the case and forgot about it. But then yesterday, something happened, and I was reminded of it again.

We had a Mother’s Day contest (for the community) at work and the 1st place winner came in yesterday. She didn’t *know* it was why she was coming in. Her mother and her son did all the behind-the-scenes work, including a lovely letter about Mom. As they talked, I got the gist of their story… and I could feel my eyes tearing up. The young man is 19-years-old and has a brain injury. Two years ago, he fell from a balcony and was in a coma for months. He’s having to learn everything all over again. Mom quit her job to be with him because he still needs around-the-clock supervision and care. He was beaming… no, more than that… I could feel his excitement, love and energy! And mom was gracious and more-than-a-little teary-eyed herself. It was a beautiful moment, with his anticipation and her surprise.

I thought of a former high school classmate whose son died last year, and what his death has meant to their entire family and network of friends. It was a car accident – so sudden. I think of her often, actually. She posts photos of her son nearly every day.

I thought of my son who lived through two significant suicide attempts; the last only 7 years ago (driving off a cliff). I never forget that he tried to take his life. I even have a snow globe with his photo in the middle, bruised and battered with broken bones and spirit, in a sling and so much pain. On the outside of the globe, I wrote in a black Sharpie:  August 2, 2011 – the day my son drove off a mountain and lived.

I am beyond thankful for his presence in my life. Just as the mother who came in yesterday feels, I know. And my friend who lost her son doesn’t get to say that. My heart breaks for her.

I also thought of friends and loved ones who’ve gone before. More and more… which is what happens as you get older. You either get older and watch as others depart, or you depart yourself.

I know I’ve mentioned before that I was very blessed to have all my grandparents until I was 21. My first funeral was on my 21st birthday, my dad’s dad. Death wasn’t even on my radar. I mean, yes, there were deaths I knew of… the neighbor who died from electrocution when I was a kid, the boy with leukemia in 8th grade, a family pet… but seriously, I hardly thought about it.

Now, it’s a backdrop for a lot of my life.

Which makes me think of this book.

As long as I can feel pain, she will stay alive for me.

One line. One single line that says everything.

I would think that the worst thing to fear (ahead of the final journey) is that you’ll cease to exist and be forgotten. I’m not being philosophical… I really do worry about this. Maybe because it happened with a few people I know that died and … *poof*… pretty-much disappeared from conversations or memories. I have no idea if it’s just how some people are wired… but this person (i.e. me) is NOT that way.

It’s really important to me to leave some kind of legacy. Not money – though, I wish! – but I mean something deeper… like love. I don’t ever want people to forget I loved them. I tried. My intentions were good. I was a good hugger, or mother, lover or friend.

Maybe it’s a wrong assumption, but I just figure everyone else feels this way, too. So, I do my best to keep those who have gone before me alive in my heart and in the memories of others.

And yes, there is still pain when I think of many who have gone before me. And yes, as long as there is pain, they stay alive for me. It may not be the kind of pain that knocks me on my ass (though it once did)… but it is still pain… because I miss them. And always will.


  1. Oh Becki, thank you for being here and shining your light my way!

    I understand and agree. Altered forever.

    For me, the secrecy added another layer that weighed me down. I’m so glad I can be open about our story now.

    Happy Mother’s Day, Becki!


  2. So beautiful, Sheryl. And timely. Thank you for this important work you do. My son would not be comfortable with my sharing it publicly, but his own two suicide attempts altered my sense of motherhood forever. He is a walking miracle. I guess…so are we!

    Happy Mother’s Day, friend.


    Rebecca Brown Smith


    “The heart of the matter is the truth”

    Liked by 1 person

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