The Life and Death of a Writer

I remember her perky brown eyes and short curly brown hair. She loved to write and had contributed to our anthology, Slants of Light: Stories and Poems from the Women’s Writing Circle.  Yesterday I reread her story, a beautifully penned tribute to her mother-in-law, a woman she had known since childhood and admired as mentor and friend, who tragically died of dementia. In a horrible way. Walking lost along the train tracks near her home in Philadelphia. 

Last week I learned that Lynda died and so I found the anthology and reread her story. “She had gotten forgetful,” the writer who informed me of Lynda’s death said, “and I suggested she see a doctor. I don’t think she ever did.” That was months ago … before the Amazon packages piled up against her front door and concerned neighbors called the police. Apparently, they found her lying by the shower. Like many of us, Lynda was a woman living alone. It wasn’t train tracks that killed her, but  …. 

When I mentioned Lynda to a friend from church, she suggested loneliness. “Loneliness is killing people,” she said. Of course, we know loneliness isn’t limited to living alone. You can be in a relationship and be alone. Was it dementia or some other health-related illness that killed Lynda? Or the pandemic? Had she been so fearful of going out, she ordered everything in, which explained the Amazon packages?  Or, had one sip of wine too many, one too many lonely nights, resulted in a slip on the floor? No cell phone nearby. No partner to call to for help, allowing the peace, the surrender? 

A graduate of Girls High in Philadelphia, Lynda wrote with great love of growing up in “one of many Philadelphia neighborhoods”, Frankfort.  It was there she met her future mother-in-law “Mrs. B”, who became her friend and confidante.

“I remember one winter day , when I was twelve, taking leave from the rest of the sledding party to help Mrs. B with the cookies. I loved the smell of the baking sweets and the cocoa on the back burner of the stove, but I had an ulterior motive. I needed to talk about my stepfather.”

After she married her second husband, Lynda moved to Chester County, right around the corner from me in Chester Springs, which is how she ended up coming to the Women’s Writing Circle. But, like so much in life when time and circumstances intervene, we lost contact over the years. I remember the last time I saw her.  We ran into each other at Target. I think the death of an ailing, terminal husband she had coped with for years had left her resigned. Or, maybe relieved? I don’t remember much else of our conversation. 

An “experienced corporate citizen” as she described herself, with a doctorate in educational psychology, Lynda’s “Loving Life at Retired” on LinkedIn made me wonder. Did she miss the path forward? Had retirement failed to live up to its dream? Had the sound of a tinkling windchime in nighttime breeze lost its magic? Had the loss of memory come with sudden shock? I will never know. Like much of life, we selfishly apply a tragedy to ourselves, left only with speculation about our own path forward. Sometimes, I think I should move into a 55-plus community, for the company, the activities. Except that another woman I knew died alone in her 55-plus house. Like Lynda, Eileen was found sprawled on the floor. 

My writing colleague from the anthology had called to say that Lynda’s obit was being written. Could they mention she had been a part of the Women’s Writing Circle and had a story published in Slants of Light? It brought to mind another woman, Darlene, who died alone two years ago and wanted her obituary to reflect her participation in the Women’s Writing Circle. Another life, another death, another writer. Was this a sign? How many women who needed community had nowhere to turn? Although I thought I had closed that chapter, I’m left pondering … should I start the Circle again? Maybe, I need it as much as they. Time, as they say, will tell.

Published by Susan G. Weidener

Join me as I share reflections, always with an eye toward the challenges and struggles we women encounter and embrace in both creative and personal ways. My memoir, Again in a Heartbeat, was selected as a 2011 editor’s pick by Story Circle Network. Its sequel Morning at Wellington Square has also achieved critical acclaim. A Portrait of Love and Honor, a novel based on a true story, is centered around a story of two people destined to meet and one man's commitment to honor following his years at West Point. In 1991, I joined the staff of The Philadelphia Inquirer and worked as a reporter covering news and writing feature stories until 2007. A native of the Philadelphia suburbs, I attended the University of Pennsylvania. In 2010, I started the Women's Writing Circle, a critique and support group for writers in suburban Philadelphia, which now meets informally. I live in Chester Springs, Pennsylvania with my Yellow Lab, Lily.

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