Sunday, May 10, 2009
Finishing Her Story
by Karen Hoover
My mother was a writer. When she was young she wrote poems and stories and dreamed of being a journalist when she grew up. Unfortunately her dream never became a reality. She married at eighteen, had four children in five years, and a husband in the navy during the Korean War who didn't understand her desire to write.
After a while that need burned so brightly within her she started writing family histories; first about the grandmother she never knew, later about her father, her husband, and her mother. She started her own history many, many times, but that was the biggest challenge of all. She told me once, "If I don't finish my history, you have to promise me you'll do it for me." Of course, I always told her she needed to do it herself, that no one could tell her story like she could, but she died before she had the chance to finish.
So now it is up to me. My mother, who was my best friend, my hero, left her story for me to tell.
This is the point where it's probably good I'm a fiction writer with the ability to climb into someone else's shoes, because the task she set before me is more daunting than I'd ever imagined it to be. I can write fiction. I'm great at coming up with ideas, but how do I tell the story of the person I admire most in the world without embellishing it . . . just a bit? She set my feet on a path that is completely foreign to me. I don't write non-fiction. I never have and never thought I would, but now I find myself grasping at an understanding I never desired to have because it was the dying wish of my mother.
Where do we turn when the need to know is bigger than our own understanding?
Well, that lesson too comes from my mother, because there's only one person who has all the knowledge we lack. We point our eyes heavenward and plead for understanding and guidance. The Lord says, "Ask and ye shall receive, knock and it shall be opened unto you," and that applies to all of us in our writing, whether it be memoir, non-fiction, or fiction. Heavenly Father knows what Mom's intent was in writing her life story. He can still speak to her where I cannot and it is through the whisperings of His spirit that I can know how to write something that seems impossible to me.
What an honor to have been given her life's task to finish. It's time to start asking the questions and finish her story. It's time to get on my knees.