Preparing for my son’s first flight was nervewracking. I had flown many times myself, but was suddenly concerned about the impact of possible catastrophe on my son.
Not remotely satisfied by the general oft-spoken assertion “you’re safer in a plane than a car,” I did my own research about the safety of flight. What remains with me three years later is not any specific statistic but the four words in this post’s title.
This page documents the last words recorded on crashed airplanes’ black boxes. Most are as you would expect–expletives, queries, statements about unexpected obstacles–but there was this one that diverged.
“Amy, I love you.”
First Officer Warmerdam, who spoke those words, survived both the crash and the resulting fire.
When I am feeling overwhelmed, I often think of those words. I wonder what, if I got a chance not only to choose them but have them relayed, would be my last four or five words. Boiling the hubbub of life down to this single question takes away any confusion or ambiguity.
Those words would be for me son. “Li’l D, I love you.” If I only got to leave a single enduring thing in this world after I pass away, hopefully many decades from now, it would be the truth imparted by those words.
My life is full of many truths, many loves and much bustle. Beneath all that is one singular truth: bustle is bustle, which comes and goes.
Love, on the other hand, comes and grows.
Sunday marks one year since I shaved my head bald for St. Baldrick’s. My anxiety diminished along with my hair; at the end, I looked at my bald self and rejoiced, for I was finally seeing “me unconcealed.”
I liked what I saw–not the surface stuff, but the truer things beneath that. No matter what anyone else did or did not see, I looked into my own face and saw a me I wanted to be.
It was powerful. It was liberating, even apart from its inspiration, which was hope for an end to childhood cancer.
This weekend, a woman I’ve never met but admire tremendously will be shaving her head for St. Baldrick’s Team Robot Boy. Her son, almost exactly my own son’s age, has battled cancer for much of his life so far. She’s written about that here, and she’s written about his spirit on this very blog.
If you are able, please donate $5 for Robot Boy–or in honor of someone you love, in memory of someone you love, in hope for a future free from childhood cancer.
A few days ago, my sisters texted me that they’d be visiting my mom’s grave.
Why today? I wondered, before it hit me: I’d forgotten. I’d forgotten March 4 was the day my mom breathed her last breath. The day she was, as a text message I received March 4, 2010 stated, finally at peace.
I felt terrible. How could I have forgotten? How could I have failed to mark such a hugely important day?
A message from my friend Emily helped me see things a little clearer. At Joshua Tree the weekend before, she’d made a point to have our friend Briel take tons of oops-I’m-falling-off-a-cliff pictures meant to make her mom–who had helped deliver my son into this world–break into a sweat. Every time Emily posed, I giggled, remembering how I used to (mostly) lovingly push my mom’s buttons just because I could. And I remembered my mom, too.
My mom, whose mischievous ways meant she sometimes couldn’t understand how she’d raised such straight-laced children. Who took my brother out for ice cream the only time he got detention. “One of my kids has it in him!” she rejoiced.
Who once pierced her belly button, exclaiming mirthfully, “This way I’m rebellious and no one at church has to know!”
Who always made me giggle when she busted out her superhero antics, and made me want to be a superhero, too.
On Monday, Emily delivered the photoshopped cherry on her panic-picture pie:
I laughed from my belly when I saw it. As I laughed, I felt like my mom was chuckling with me. “I like this girl!” I could hear her saying.
Later in the evening, I got choked up when my sisters sent me pictures of my niece and nephew standing on Mom’s grave. I cried while walking the dog later still, feeling guilty anew to have forgotten. After a few minutes of sniffling self flagellation, I revisited something I’d written earlier in the day:
Feel terrible that I forgot it’s been three years today since Mom died. Feel glad, too; better to remember life & birthdays than a death day.
Seeing those words, I wiped off my tears, loaded Emily’s picture again, and giggled. Again.
Just like that, my mom felt near . . . nearer by far in the laughter than the tears.
Abandoning one slow read in the summer of 2012, I scanned through my downloads for something more suited my macabre mood. I didn’t expect to find anything; after all, I’d only downloaded a dozen books and I’d read most of them.
But I found Graveyard Blues, and I was captivated from its very first word straight through its final ones. My June 2012 review was glowing:
As a lifelong reader of horror, I’ve come to expect that most horror will neither actually scare me nor stick with me after I’ve finished reading it. It’s exhilarating to find a horror novel that engages me from its first pages and only gets better as it goes. Graveyard Blues is such a novel.
Hettie and Henry, the book’s protagonists, are some of the most memorable characters I’ve encountered not just in horror but in fiction. They’re very real, very funny characters with whom I’d be happy to travel even if the story itself weren’t so engaging. But let’s be clear: the story is compelling.
When its protagonists came up against obstacles at every turn, I found myself holding my breath and hoping all would turn out well for them . . . even if, as the story progressed, that seemed an increasingly unlikely outcome.
The end more than satisfied. Best of all, it’s not so much an end as a resting point. I normally prefer standalone books, but THIS is a series to which I’ll happily return.
It’s both my pleasure and honor to be interviewing Graveyard Blues author Reina Salt today.
Have you always felt compelled to write? If not, what inspired you to pick up the proverbial pen?
Well, as I child, I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. Actually, that’s not entirely true — I wanted to be Indiana Jones and Elvira, but failing that, I wanted to make art. For years, I painted, but I didn’t have much by way of success. When the economy crashed, I was left unemployed at my day job, battling depression on a daily basis, and trying to find more ways to channel my creative energy to make some money. I taught myself to sew, and sold things I made to people around the world for a few years. I dabbled in writing in the past, but for a long time, it was just another tool for me to make art with; an unused paintbrush, if you will. That is, until my character Henry came to me in a very intense monologue which I use in his first scene. I tried to put it out of my head several times, but he remained, persistent, and getting louder. Writing wasn’t a conscience decision for me, so much as it was a compulsion. I was driven to write after being haunted by my own creations, as it were.