Today is the fifth anniversary of my mother’s death. There hasn’t been a day when I haven’t thought about her, and this major marker made me think about other people I have lost. One of my earliest books, What to do When Someone Dies, helped me come to terms with the death of someone else that I was very close to: my father.
I’ll never forget how the book came about. My father died when I was heavily pregnant with my second child. Naturally, I was devastated. Dad had terminal cancer, so I knew it was only a matter of time. But somehow I believed he’d hang on long enough to see his only grandson. He didn’t make it and I was in serious denial. Sure, I managed to go through the motions of helping arrange the funeral and doing all the stuff that needed to be done. But I didn’t really believe it was happening.
A phone call from a publisher
A few weeks after my son was born, I received a phone call from Choice Books. They said they liked my previous book, and would I like to write one for them? I was about to say yes, until they mentioned what the book was about. A guide to the arrangements that have to be made after a death. Dealing with wills, funerals, the estate, etc. They said I could use my legal knowledge. They didn’t realise I also had personal knowledge – and very recent too.
I almost said no. The pain was too fresh and writing would make me re-live it. But I knew that turning them down would not make the pain go away. I also realised the book would be better if written by someone who’d experienced the personal element. The writer would need to keep in mind their readers are grieving – well, I didn’t need any reminding! Most importantly, this would be something I could do for my father, in his memory. So I said yes.
My amazing editor
I later discovered the editor who commissioned me had cancer. She knew she was dying, and saw the need for such a book. I only learned this after she had died. Amazing woman. To have stayed so strong during the process, even to the extent of helping her clueless author not to fall apart!
Nice to know it’s helped people
Years after the book was published, I googled myself (as one does). I stumbled across a review of the book. The reviewer said it helped her get through the most difficult time in her life, and she was grateful to have found it. That simple sentence made me feel so good.
Now in a second edition, the book is still selling, so I know it must be helping lots of people. I’m sure Mum and Dad would be proud …