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One of the themes in Return To Sender (RTS) surrounds the topic of coping and healing from grief, which I know well. I became interested in how people deal with loss when my cousin who was like a sister to me, died in 1996. Her
death left me in a maelstrom of depression, a sense of my own mortality that frightened me to the core. We were the same age.
Soon after her funeral I traveled to our ancestral homeland, Ireland, to grieve and to write. I did a one month writer’s residence and met the most remarkable people. Most were poets, singers and writers – all tragic bards in some stage of grieving a loss. But the rest were fishermen, cab and bus drivers, bartenders and even a beer loving priest, who all, in their own matchless way dealt with grief. One, my host, spent her mornings in her backyard where she had buried every dog she’d owned over thirty years, (eleven total). There she had a not-so-quiet communion with them as she smoked her rolled cigarettes, drank gin-spiked tea, told them her woes and listened to the waves meet the rocky Burren from her tragic Irish Sea. I can still picture her sitting on one of her many headstones; tattered red and purple coat, slippers and a red knit (pointy) cap, and billows of smoke above her as she talked to her dear departed, ever devoted pets.
I’ve since been fascinated in how people heal from (deal with) loss in their own unique way. In RTS I have each character that is dealing with tragedy, have a distinctive way of coping; Pearl with her two cups of tea, Mrs. B with her old love letters, Imogene with the candles for her dearly departed, and of course, Theo with his letters all marked, Return To Sender. All of these things are grief containers. It’s important to note that there is no correct way through sorrow, the only correct thing is that one finds their path and embarks on that journey to wellness, whatever that is for them. That woman in Ireland called her carefully rolled cigarettes her ‘sticks of sorrow’. She smoked one with each sitting, then carefully put out the flame of that sorrow and buried it in the dirt. That back yard so close to Ireland’s stony Burren and the shallow sea, contained her sadness. I have grown increasingly convinced that in this life there’s a certain brittle beauty in the inevitable dance we all do with grief.
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