Sunday, February 18, 2018

Long Love Letter

Steven's writing
After the writer's death, reading his journal is like receiving a long letter.
—Jean Cocteau (French: 5 July 1889 – 11 October 1963)

My oldest daughter Naomi began a diary when she was only nine years old—and kept writing until she died at the age of nineteen. As her father, I did not know she was being so attentive about the intimate details of her life until she was seventeen. She kept her journals private.

After she passed away, her personal writings were indeed like receiving a long letter from her.

I wrote during my youth as well—but not so early in life. My first diary began when I wrote on my seventeenth birthday. I would use the little cloth-bound book as a record; “So that the sentimentalist I think I might be in the future can look back and remember the person he once was and the changes he went through.”

Naomi's writings
Naomi, at age nine was simply taking delight in life and honoring it by writing her observances, dreams, thoughts and feelings. Her first entries are full of incorrectly spelled words—she was terrible at spelling until almost high school. She would try and get her notions down on paper and guess at word spelling. For instance she wrote when 12: “We were playing with the new puppy, (we are thinking of naming her Soffy or Sophia). We were playing tug-of-war and then Sarah put the tug-of-war thing in her mouth and so I grabid it and both of us tuged a wile and Sarah’s tooth ended up gone! I feel really bad about it and stuff!
Just a minute ago I found her tooth!
She lost and I found it!”

After my teen years I stopped keeping a diary. Instead I kept a dream journal. It filled quickly and then tapered off when I did not remember them often. Then, as my life as a visual artist came to the fore, I married, had children and gave up writing.

Naomi fell ill with cancer at age seventeen, and I began keeping a record of her struggle. I wanted to write about her success in beating her disease. I kept writing until her death, determined to tell her story of courage, grace and spirit. It became the story of her soul and how she transitioned into a magnificent spiritual being. The writing took three years and produced, A Heart Traced In Sand, Reflections on a Daughter’s Struggle For Life.

During her last two years Naomi wrote her observances of life and her surroundings, and was gaining wisdom: “Today I saw myself in my English class dancing with joy because I was cured. I saw myself telling people that the most important thing in life is to bask in it with all of its glory. Hardship is something that will make us stronger. I don’t know if I have complete evidence of this  but I think that in every situation there is good  in it. I feel so much wisdom and I know that I will learn more!”

Naomi wrote many affirmations, picturing how she envisioned her life. She also wrote her fears and sometimes anger. Life was becoming painful and short. Close to the end, she wrote of her pain, anxiety, and a nagging doubt that was with her. Once, she thought of somebody reading her diary after her death and was angry, writing she would rather burn her journal.
The last writing Naomi did was on a small piece of paper two nights before her death. “Dream of a blissful cruise. I don’t remember much of it. I just remember glimpses of it. I am happy.” The note was on her bedside table when she died.

Soon afterward I made my first journal entry: “It has been sixteen days since Naomi passed away. I am still sorting out the pieces of my life. At the studio; I was here yesterday and could not manage to begin painting. Here again today . . .  I will try and begin again.”

My stack of writing books
Eventually, I became single and felt Naomi’s spirit encouraging me to live life fully without fear. Since then I have been around the world twice and lived in many lands. My stack of journals is tall. I write this blog every week and have 587 posts. There is one little book that is special. It is only for my notes to God. Here is an entry from September 25, 2009: Dear God. To look in any direction is to see miracles. Above is the endless sky, and below is mother earth. On every side is mystery. Even the senses I use to perceive my world are miraculous gifts I do not fully comprehend.

Someday my end will come and I will go to be with Naomi again. My writings will be left behind. Sarah, my surviving daughter will find them and read them as a long love letter to her and life.

No comments: