During the 1950s, a lovely lady named Floss, witnessed a little girl with weight on her shoulders and fingernails bitten to the quick. It was then that I was rescued. Aunt Floss spent quality time teaching alternative ways to express my feelings with infinite compassion.
Her most memorable advice was hand written, “Thoughts are the shadows of our feelings. Whether feeling sad, hurt, happy or angry, our emotions need expression. What better way than putting pen to paper?” She handed me a beautiful box containing her note, fancy paper and a pen. Throughout years of weathering unimaginable tragedies, I’ve learned expressing emotions on paper proved to be a healthy escape. I believe Aunt Floss was my inspiration.
During life’s traumatic experiences, intense feelings oozed from my fingers. With pen in hand, thoughts and sentiments emerged. Scribbling down thoughts was never a chore. As a child, it became a safety net storing them inside my lovely box. Eventually this evolved into journaling, allowing me to once again let go of secret conversations bottled up inside. It began after receiving a gift from Santa in third grade. A lovely pink diary with a tiny lock and gold plated key. Most of my earliest writings were about being bullied. Looking back, those early childhood experiences included things I didn’t understand and couldn’t express openly.
Embedded in my heart was the story of my first tragedy written in third grade. My mother gave birth to twins in her mid-forties. Judith Ann was the smaller twin with a heart condition. Myself and four young siblings nicknamed them Jack and Jill. As kids do, we repeated the nursery rhyme time and again, driving mom crazy—until that fateful day. Our 8 month old baby sister developed complications from pneumonia. There was nothing the doctors could do. Throughout the night Mom held her close, comforting Jill. My baby sister died in her arms before I awoke. Dark clouds settled over our home for quite some time.
One sorrowful memory takes me back to the day Jill’s crib was removed, like a scary old movie playing in my head. A freckle faced third grader standing in the doorway, tears rolling down her cheeks. That little girl was me, experiencing the finality of her sister’s death.
Again there was urgency to put feelings on paper. It became a way of purging anxieties while sorting through my emotions, even at a young age. It didn’t matter what was scribbled on paper, writing was proving to be therapeutic.
During my teen years, friends and activities came to the forefront. Working and playing first singles on the high school tennis team kept me busy. Writing being mandatory in school sent my creativity out the window. No longer feeling the need to write, pages of my diary were left blank while the shiny mahogany box under my bed collected dust balls.
It wasn’t until midlife, after years of tragic heartbreak, writing found me once again. I wrote of special times, funny moments, as well as the difficult ones…My story needed to be told.
When writing, I often find myself drifting back in time reliving scenes from those dreadful days and nights in 1973, 1983 and 2018. No matter how much we wish for, not all stories have happy endings.
In spring of ‘73, my beautiful sister, twenty-four years young, didn’t want to end her life, just the pain. Losing all hope living with depression, Martha sank into that bottomless black abyss. As her surviving sibling close in age, it was painfully difficult to witness. After the funeral no one talked about it, everything got swept under the carpet. Left were feelings of being disconnected from a world gone silent. I couldn’t save my beautiful sister, no one could. The realization of being a sibling of suicide is a pain survivors live with in silence.
February 26th 1983, was my brother George’s last time wearing his State Police uniform. His last goodbye as he waved to his wife and three children. While working a double shift late at night, he stopped a vehicle with a rear light out. Being in a dark and remote area, Trooper Hanna observed an orange Chevy Vega with five men inside. Standing alone in a dark parking lot with his cruiser lights flashing, he asked them to get out of the car. While frisking the first individual, they began speaking a foreign language. During a scuffle, my brother was shot in the leg, falling to the pavement. Having guns, the assailants began firing upon my brother, shooting him multiple times. Trooper Hanna began crawling to the cruiser when one of the gunmen slammed him to the ground shooting three more times in his back. After the perpetrators sped off, my 36 year old brother stood in the middle of the street to wave a car down before collapsing. He died three hours later, alone in the hospital. As fast as the cruisers escorted us, our family was unable to arrive in time. There were no good-byes, but a tragedy that forever changed our lives. While enduring three separate trials, we learned these dangerous criminals were out to rob a liquor store. Trooper George Hanna’s intervention, undoubtedly saved lives.
Decades later in 2018, I lost my best friend and only child. It’s been two years since my beautiful Laura received her angel wings. I wasn’t sure I’d survive the first year however faith and my red winged visitors carried me through. That year we were planning to celebrate her 50th birthday. The finality of her loss continues to engulf me with a daily reality of carrying on without her.
When a parent buries a child, it takes hard work and dedication to survive. For me, nature continues to provide great respite allowing deeper breaths. Losing Laura broke my heart in a million pieces yet somehow with time, I’m learning to live with joy and sorrow in unison. Triggers and landmines continue going off, shaking me to my core. This unending war inside, helps me to use my pain to support others. After all, the love we feel that can’t be expressed can filter through in other directions. Much like dark clouds that leak rain while rays of sunshine peak through.
Writing continues to be a healing factor in expressing my emotions. Much has to do with my heart, soul and mind behind the words. When difficult emotions or ideas come through for me, the visceral side of my brain begins speaking through my fingers. At times I surprise myself when words begin to flow. The action of writing helps me to remember things I thought were lost. Recalling happy memories is a reminder not to let those precious moments disappear.
Floss’s advice allowed freedom of expression to once again surface. My love for reading true stories made it easier to tell my own. I’m an avid believer in the importance of both. Writing will always have a curative and cathartic exercise. It’s one of the outlets and distractions that helped me through my worst of tragedies. It’s about finding peace when releasing pain instead of allowing it to root within. Over time and without choice, I’ve learned to change and adapt after losing loved ones. In spite of the dark clouds that linger, I continue looking for sunshine, flowers in spring, and the beauty of nature—keeping darkness at bay.
There are times I turn away from writing. Other times, I’m laden with rushing emotions, jotting words down, making little sense. My fingers move easily and sentences flow like a sun-spangled brook. That’s when my best stories are written.
My daughter’s passing happened while writing my memoir, Reminiscing– La Vie en Rose. Finishing my story felt impossible living with complicated grief. Laura’s support of my book and my desire to honor her memory, kept my fingers on the keyboard. Writing our story gave me purpose, allowing Laura’s name to live on.
Living is not forever, nevertheless memories written, withstands the test of time. My hope is to inspire all who walk a similar path even if our shoes are different.
About the Author-------------
Molly Hanna Glidden is a self-published author and advocate. She owned and operated Salon 17 for over 30 years. She is founder of the Boston Metrowest IC Support Group and co-authored, The Interstitial Guide for Partners. Her work was profiled on a CNN Health Accent featuring Dr. Sonjay Gupta. She is the author of A Family Broken – Surviving Traumatic Loss, and her story, My Red -Winged Visitor was recently featured in Grief Digest Magazine. Molly’s recent book, “Reminiscing – La Vie en Rose” is now released on Amazon!
Molly Hanna Glidden © 2020