Above all, I have been a sentient being,
a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet,
and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.
SOONER THAN TOMORROW
A Mother's Diary
by Dede Ranahan
Welcome to my world.
My story is written in diary format. I wrote it from June 15, 2013, to June 15, 2014. I’ve always wished I’d uncovered a diary or letter written by one of my relatives a hundred years ago. With so much interest in ancestry right now, I decided to pay it forward for my children and grandchildren, and leave a time capsule for them from the deep, dark past of today.
What I didn’t know, as I was writing, was that I was capturing the last year of my son’s life. Pat died, unexpectedly, on July 23, 2014, on a hospital psych ward where I thought he was safe. Suddenly, my diary morphed into a more poignant record than I’d anticipated.
I like stories where I can extrapolate from the singular to the universal — that is where I can identify with a common denominator in another person’s experience. One early reader of my diary said, “Your story is so relatable.” That’s what I hope other readers will say.
You may relate to my story if...
You have a child (children) you love more than your own life.
You have an adult child who lives with and suffers from serious mental illness.
You’ve lost a child — no matter what age.
You're a member of the sandwich generation.
You’re trying to live more in the moment, be more observant, and find joy in each day.
You treasure conversations with children — especially when they’re your grandchildren.
Your cat or your dog is in charge of your household.
Your bones are beginning to creak. Turning 70 was the catalyst for my writing.
You wake up each morning with a huge hole in your heart but you know, somehow, someway, you have to get up and put one foot in front of the other.
You enjoy reading the other side of history — about ordinary people and their daily lives.
You’ve been thinking of leaving something for your descendants — a letter, story, diary, song, painting or poem — but you haven’t gotten around to it. Maybe my diary will spur you on.
A couple notes about format:
I've added a Before section (Scenes from the Trenches). Going in, I want the reader to know “Yes, Houston, we really do have a problem.”
After he died, I discovered Pat had been making regular posts on FaceBook. I decided to add his comments to my own.
I’ve divided my diary into quarters - Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring. I introduce each with one of Pat’s poems.
I end with an After section that I didn't see coming.
I hope you'll make reading my diary an interactive experience and leave comments for each of us to consider — about themes you relate to or how your experiences differ from mine. I'm blogging my book because I'm motivated by reach and I believe, through word of mouth and social media sharing, my story will reach more than a book sitting on a shelf. I want my story and Pat's story to put faces on serious mental illness. To personalize it.
As I was writing, I didn't know, from day to day, what stories were unfolding. I learn, right along with the reader, what will happen next. We're all on a journey. Thank you for going on this journey with me.
Akamai (ah-ka-my) is Hawaiian slang for wit and wisdom. In spiritual numerology, 777 is a lucky number, a number of God. “Akamai777” meaning “Wit, wisdom, and a big hug from the universe,” was a favorite saying of my son’s. I don’t know if he made it up or found it somewhere.
Pat, in your honor, I’m noting your phrase and passing it on. I love you forever. Mom
Finalist: 2016 San Francisco Writer's Conference Memoir Contest
Finalist: 2016 Writer's Digest Writing Competition