Bereavement Services

It has been far too long since my last post. Unfortunately, life has a way of making our best laid plans go awry. Due to a surgery and a move, all my good intentions have been delayed. Now, I am healthy and we are in an interim home while our house is being built. Our routine has been reestablished! Here is the first chapter of my next book, due out in the Fall. Let me know what you think. Keep reading and writing, Novesta. 

 

Chapter 1

 

“Obituaries were never my cup of tea,” I admit to myself as I stare at the ceiling from the comfort of my king-size bed. There are people who check them out every day. All they do is remind me that the people I love could die at any time, under a myriad of dreadful circumstances. Yet here I am with a lucrative business writing obituaries for families that want sleek, compassionate send-offs for their loved ones.

My current career began innocently enough. When I came home from my two-year sojourn in Spain, I moved from Ann Arbor, Michigan to Tucson, Arizona. I needed a job and The Arizona Daly Star hired me for their only available position, the obituaries.

As time went on, I increased my involvement with customers and began helping people edit and refine their eulogies. The bereaved adored me. I received fan mail. They asked me to come to their homes to help them compose farewells for their departed. Oddly enough, many people bought the paper simply to read the obits.

I wanted another position, something meatier. My editor upped my salary but would not consider me for another position. “You’re too valuable where you are, Kat,” I was told. He threw me several fluff jobs but nothing of substance. So I quit and Bereavement Services was born.

Although my salary is excellent, Bereavement Services has become an albatross around my neck. This is not how I imagined my literary career. Composing obituaries is depressing. I want something different, something that will snatch me from the doldrums that have swallowed me like quicksand. I want an exciting career, recognition, adventure.

Sighing, I glance at the clock on the bedside table. Noon. Sitting on the side of the bed, I pull off my oversized tee and drop it on the floor. Thinking about exercising suffices for the actual routine and I head to the bathroom for a hot shower.

Drying off with a rough towel, I can feel myself coming to life. My skin is turning pink and tingly and my brain is perking up. I run fingers through toweled hair, and it quickly dries into long, fluffy blonde curls. I put on my favorite black bra and panty set, then apply my make-up, eyeliner, mascara, blush, and lipstick.

Tugging on my skinny black jeans, I complete my ensemble with a girly black and white strapless top. The last touch is a pair of large onyx and silver hoop earrings. Looking in the full-length mirror, I smile. Pretty good for twenty-nine years old.

While doing well in the looks department, I am floundering where my career is concerned. Nearing thirty, still not the writer I always dreamed of being, time is running out.

Padding bare-foot into the kitchen, I pour my first cup of coffee then check my email and texts as I saunter into the living room. I contemplate calling my younger sister, Kit, an airline attendant. With her straight red hair and big brown eyes, we may not look like sisters, but our voices are so similar people often mistake one for the other over the phone.

As I want to talk about my abysmal life and my sister is weary of the complaining and whining I fall into during each call, I opt for Skyping Sara. We have been friends since sixth grade and, being a social worker, she is more apt to commiserate and help problem solve.

“Kat! How are you? You look great!” She is smiling as usual and her blue eyes sparkle. Sara is one of the most upbeat people I know.

“I need to talk about a problem if you have a few minutes. But first, how is your family?”

“Everyone is fine. Sam is good and the farm is prospering. My therapy practice has expanded and I may need to work one more day a week.”

“Well, a four-day work week isn’t so bad,” I laugh.

“No, it isn’t. Now tell me what’s going on with you,” she said, her smile dimming.

“I’m so down all the time. Writing obits is lucrative, but I hate it. I love the people who hire me, but listening to their sadness for hours is depressing. I feel like a grief counselor. It’s overwhelming. The other day I found myself composing my own obituary. Can you believe that?”

Sara is silent for a moment. When she responds, I am surprised by her reaction.

“I’m speaking professional to professional and I have to be honest. I’m worried about you. You have a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology. What would you tell a client who was talking like this?”

“Get thee to a psychiatrist and have him put you on antidepressants,” I answer truthfully.

“Not funny,” Sara chides. “You’ve been ignoring this situation for far too long. You need to see someone, do something to change the situation, or both.”

“That’s why I called. I have one more obit to write this week and then I’m done for a month. I’ve already turned four requests over to my assistant, Sandi, and here’s the big news. She’s buying me out.”

“That’s wonderful!” Sara sounds happy for me. “But how will you support yourself? Will you go into clinical practice?” She seems calm, but there is a hint of concern in her voice.

“With the money from the sale and the inheritance from Grandma, I’ll be fine for quite a while. I’ll also be consulting for the next year while we train, Anna, Sandi’s assistant. I will be paid a healthy salary plus my health care will continue.

“It seems you’ve thought this through, but are you sure you want to sell the business?”

“This wasn’t a snap decision. God, I’ll turn thirty in six-months and I have no life.” I begin counting on my fingers, “I have a business I dislike, no real friends other than you, and I do nothing but write about dead people. I want to write a novel. That’s been my dream since I was a little girl. Tell me I’ll find success, friends, maybe even someone to love. I want a life. It’s time.”

“I have a great idea. You could come out here for a couple of weeks or a month. It’s humid and hot as blazes, but the Ann Arbor art fair is coming up in three weeks and, speaking of love, an old friend is going to be there. He designs fabulous jewelry and wall art.” Sara sports a mischievous grin.

“Not Lance.” I know I have a sour look on my face.

“Yes. Don’t you want to see him?”

“No. I don’t want to see him. I never want to see him again.”

“He divorced Patty. He divorced her.”

“And that means what? He married Patty after he proposed to me. He married her while I was studying in Spain.”

“It means he’s single and he’s not dating. He’d give anything to see you. If you’d just let me tell you the entire story, you might have a different point of view.” Sara looks and sounds irritated.

I interrupt her. “Even thinking about him makes me feel like I’m drowning. I do not want to see him. I mean it. How much clearer can I be?”

“Okay, okay, I get it. No Lance.” Sara’s frown tells me how much she disagrees.

“But I’d love to see you and Kit. I need to have some fun. I need some girl time.”

Sara’s reference to Lance makes me feel like having a temper tantrum. I thank her for her input, tell her I’ll call her tomorrow, and say good-bye before I can scream. Taking deep breaths to calm myself, I count to ten and call my sister.

“Hi, it’s me.”

“Hi, you. Are you going to complain about your job? Quit.”

“I did.”

“You quit? You actually quit?”

“You sound incredulous, Sis. I’m selling the business over the next year. I’ll work for that year, but not writing obits. I’ll tell you all about it later. Sara suggested I come for a visit. Could I stay at your apartment?“

“Well, yes. As long as you don’t mind if I’m in it, too. When exactly are you coming? I’ll take some time off.”

“Perfect! I can’t wait to see you. I’ll call with the details.”

“Well, don’t procrastinate,” she emphasizes. “I’ll have to make arrangements.” I hear a male voice in the background insisting it is time to leave. Kit laughs. “Gotta go. Call me soon.”

Before I can answer, she hangs up.

The Creative Process: Remembering

“Aunt Jennie was my great aunt and your great-great aunt. Well, Aunt Jenny lost her only son to small pox when that little boy was only ten years old. That was when Aunt Jenny began practicing Spiritualism. She became a medium. She once conducted a séance I’ll never forget – don’t you ever go to one of those things, honey. Why I remember it like it was yesterday.”

 

“I remember it like it was yesterday. We went all the way to Oklahoma in that covered wagon. Yes, sir! I remember walking barefoot, looking back at my footprints in the dusty old road and then jumping onto the wagon.”

 

“Hey! Hey! Know what? My great-grandpa went on vacation in a real covered wagon!”

 

“Tell us the Army story, Dad! You know, the one where you were driving the jeep, and you turned the corner so fast that the dog flew out and you caught him by the tail….”

 

Most people long to keep their past alive. They pass on family legends and stories, as well as belongings of days gone by – grandma’s quilt, grandpa’s coffee cup, mom’s hope chest, dad’s favorite book. The sight or even the thought of this kind of sentimental keepsake can very quickly slide you into a gentle reverie. You touch people who are no more through memory, story, song and a myriad of other mediums.

Children are fascinated by the past. They especially love pictures and movies of themselves as babies, their parents as children, and grandma and grandpa as younger people, vigorous and dark-haired. They gaze in wonder at these familiar people as children, teenagers, and newlyweds. We look at our children’s past with wistfulness, poignancy, a smile, a tear. And so it goes.

Roots, traditions and memories are essential elements in our lives. They give us substance, a sense of belonging in a rapidly changing world. Whether the memories are bright and shining or dark and frightening, they contribute to who were are, the kind of person we become. Even the dark and frightening memories become stories in the chain of stories that make up our lives.

Families used to live in the same area, in the same town for their entire lives. Now families are often scattered far and wide. Even nuclear families are losing the intimacy they once cherished.

Often when families gather together these days, they need to rediscover those common threads that bond them as a family. Once the hellos and hugs are over, and the catching up has been completed, everyone begins the mental process of leave-taking. Then someone laughs softly and says, “You know, I haven’t thought of this in years, but do you remember the time when Amy was five and she…?”

The story is always an old one that has been repeated again and again. Yet, like children, we enjoy both the telling and the listening. One story leads to another, and before you know it the children are creeping in to listen. Some stories are very old, practically legends, while others will become the beloved legends of the future.

These stories are a bond. They give us a sense of continuity. They amuse us and give us a chance to laugh together, to sigh together, to weep together. They allow us to remember that there is a common thread running through all our lives. They help us recreate the family, the closeness, the caring.

If we extend this situation to the world at large, we realize there are no new stories for they have all been told endlessly, through the ages, in many tongues, by many peoples. We realize we are but a link in a never-ending chain and we wonder why we never realized that before.

Introduction

Welcome Fellow Readers and Writers,

 

I am finally getting around to posting my first blog. About time, most of my readers have said. Sorry it took so long. Things have been busy around here! Christmas is coming up fast, and while we look forward to it, hustle and bustle ensues.

I am planning blog posts for the first and third Mondays of the month, and they will be on a variety of topics. I welcome suggestions for topics to cover and responses to what I write. You may leave input here or contact me at Novesta.Mirochna@gmail.com. If you have my private email, you may contact me there.

I have gotten some very positive input regarding Our Haunted House from both children and adults. Thank you all for emailing me, talking to me in person, or leaving reviews on Amazon.com. It is quite helpful if you leave a review. (Hint. Hint.) Amazon does keep track of them. Jessica Frey was the first person to review this book on Amazon. You, Jessica, get a special prize for that! To the children who requested sequels, yes, there will be a sequel. I already have the outline of the book done.

According to Jon Evans, JonEvans@techcrunch, in his blog titled, Mama, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Writers, the average American reads only 6.5 to 17 books each year. Over a seventy-year life span, that comes to between 455 and 1190 books per person. Since there are millions of books to choose from and new ones coming out all the time, I thank all of you who chose to buy mine.

I am currently at work on a book of romantic suspense for adults. The characters are the grown-up children from Our Haunted House. Look for a free first chapter in the next couple of months, hopefully by February, and feel free to comment. Until the next blog, I will be working judiciously on my books.

Keep reading and writing,

Novesta