Loch Awe in spring - Photo courtesy of Neil Donald Photography






Sunday, 22 April 2012

Of life and death, friends and family


It was my birthday on Friday. I've got to the age when birthdays are questionable things to celebrate, but then again, each one really does become a matter for celebration simply because you're still around to celebrate it. Sadly, I have a close friend who is living her last days on this planet, and being with her and thinking about her sure heightens my appreciation of life and sharpens my awareness of mortality.

But I'm pleased to say that I had a wonderful day with friends and family. Food, wine, shared stories and a great deal of laughter, these are the things that are precious. I'm blessed with my own family, I have a wonderful husband who makes me laugh every day and who has taught me to understand how giving to others is a gift to yourself also. I have a son whose positive traits I take absolute credit for (he has no negative ones! - except, his wife tells me, a tendency to OCD, which I have to take the blame for...), and a delightful daughter-in-law whose bright, bubbly personality brings sunshine to all our lives. And I have a bunch of friends whose company cheers me and whose support I know I can count on if times get tough.

So Friday was a day of thinking about all these things. Life, death, love, friends, families - they are all the stuff of novels. In novels, throw a bomb into the middle of any permutation of that mix and you get the kind of drama starting to play out that provides the conflict needed for a story that grips. As novelists we have to think ourselves into situations that – please God - we will never have to experience ourselves. That's where our imagination comes in. But we also have to draw on our own experiences in order to enrich what we write. One day, of course, I will have to walk the road my friend Jan is walking right now - but when I do, I hope I will do it with the spirit and courage and grace she is showing all of us.

In the meantime - sorry Jan! - expect to see a character, sometime, inspired by her masterclass, because for novelists no experience is ever wasted.

Joanna Trollope claims that older writers make better writers, because of the greater breadth and depth of experience they have to draw on. That's why I'm celebrating the marking of another year.


14 comments:

  1. I am glad you had a happy day, Jenny, one more occasion to remember and treasure. However brilliant fiction may be we all need support from friends and family when times get tough in real life. Perhaps you could a plant a shrub in your garden in Jan's memory? I had a college friend who died far too young. Although I have moved house I can still see the dainty white birch tree I planted. See http://gwenkirkwood.blogspot.com

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  2. What a lovely thought, Gwen. She ain't gone yet though!

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  3. Glad you had a lovely birthday, Jenny - and it's always good to give thanks for each year. I lost several close family members too young and never take the years for granted.

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    1. Carpe diem, Rosemary. And never take anything for granted.

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  4. A bittersweet post, Jenny.......the phrase 'Watching me, watching you' came to mind.....big hugs as you go through this sad time.

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  5. Thank you, Linda. It's certainly thought-provoking.

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  6. I agree with you, Jenny. Treasure the joyful minute. They last.

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  7. Treasure the joyful moments, Jenny, and Jan - definitly (says Gill arguing with younger son about who understands who - and wondering if older son will ever understand anyone). But yes, it's really important to value the present, and so glad you had a good birthday Jenny.

    Just remembered that as I was arguing with younger son, I realised I needed pen and paper to hand and was actually noting down his body language... This makes me a good writer. Or a bad mum - or both.

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  8. We can't help being writers, Gill. And you're certainly not a bad Mum!

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  9. and you didn't tell me it was almost your birthday.!
    A great, thought provoking post Jenny

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    1. Thanks, Raven. As I say, sometimes we try not to think about the passing years too much. Still, it was lovely being spoiled by friends and family!

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  10. Indeed, Jenny, seize the day and share the love.
    xx

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    1. I try to. Today it's grey and wet though - and what I really want to do is curl up in bed!

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