Friday, April 28, 2006

The Power of Words

By W. L. Elliott

It took a mere moment for my day to drastically change. The flip editorial I was about to write fell to the ground and shattered into unimportance as I found something in my inbox that I had neither expected nor wanted.

“. . .to the hospital in the ambulance. He never recovered and passed away this morning at 8:15 AM . . .We will most likely be having the funeral on Saturday. . .”

Suddenly, I couldn’t see. My throat cramped down so hard I could barely breathe, and refused to release until I gave in to the demanding sobs that accompanied warm tears sliding down my face. I could do nothing, held helpless by the sudden onslaught of emotion.

It seems simplistic to talk about it now, I think as I wipe away another tear. What was it, really, that had upset me?

The power of words.

All I ever knew of Ben were written words. I had never heard his voice. I may have seen him in passing at the event that brought us to the same group, but I don’t remember it if I did. His whole existance, in relationship to mine, was merely black words printed on a white screen. I read his work, hearing his voice through the voices of his characters. We had neighborly chats through email and that’s where I ‘saw’ his face, not in person or in a photo, but through his words, his turn of phrase and the attitudes that shone through that black and white as brightly as any color portrait. I read his pictures, and I very much liked the person that I saw behind them.

But, now, here were these words telling me that my friend was gone. Simple black shapes on a simple white screen with the power to nullify everything I had been thinking of right up until that moment.

How powerful are the things we write. Every word that we put down, on paper or on screen, paints something of ourselves into it. Will anyone weep for me, for the loss of my words, when I leave this place? Will I ever affect someone so deeply with the simple, almost involuntary act of pressing a button to put a black mark on a white screen, or scratching an ink filled pen against pristine white paper?

I have one goal that encompasses everything I write, and is the one great reason that I do it.

If I can create one king as noble and great as High King Peter of Narnia, if I can speak with one voice as beloved as Masterharper Robinton of the Harper Hall, if I can give one person a place to escape that is as safe and as dear to them as the Hundred Acre Wood is to me, then I will be complete as a writer, and I will have fulfilled my one great goal in writing.

And if, along the way, my own personality shows through my writing so brightly that someone I’ve never met feels that they know me and consider me a dear friend, as I considered Ben one, then so much the better!

So, Ben – this one’s for you. Thank you for teaching me the power of the written word in a way I never saw it before.

“It is good,” he repeated, raising his arm in farewell as he turned toward the meadow.

-quoted from A Long Way From Nowhere, by Ben Bracken


Candace E. Salima said...

I wish to express my thoughts to Ben Bracken's family at this incredibly difficult time. I only met him March of this year at the LDS Storymakers Writers Conference and yet he made a distinct impression. We found common interests and I found myself genuinely liking him.

All I can at this time, to each member of his family, is to remember the eternal promises of a loving Heavenly Father and realize that Ben is still with you. He will be able to help each of you more from the other side of the veil. You will miss him sorely, but at times will feel his presence.

Know that we, at both Authors Incognito and LDS Storymakers, have our thoughts and prayers with you at this time.

May God Bless each one of you with peace and comfort.

Candace E. Salima

Anonymous said...

Very touching. Thanks for putting it into words so well.