Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Gratitude for My Writing Sister

A year ago today, I flew down to San Diego to hold onto the hand of one of my closest friends. Ellen lay in bed in the ICU, hooked up to a ventilator, as still as still can be. Under that stillness, a battle raged over her lungs. She will never again say, "As easy as taking a breath."

It's her story, so I'll leave it for her to tell. She's a fabulous writer and storyteller. She has been my writing sister for the past 15 years.

I will say this: She's home now, still fighting, but getting better. There have been setbacks, more hospital stays. But she finished a novel and turned it into her publisher. To keep her spirits up, she ordered a whole new supply of pretty pajamas and matching slippers online. And when yet another setback got too depressing, Cat Stevens crooning through her iPod ear buds reminded her how utterly gorgeous life can be, and what a privilege it is to be able to make art.

She's a prize fighter. She's a prize writer. When the bombs explode, she often pulls her pen from its cap like a sword from its sheath, and she gets the words down. She makes art. (She's shrugging as she reads this. She's saying, "Everyone has their battles. We all do the best we can.")

Except we don't always choose to do our best. I haven't, not always. Sometimes the fetal position is so inviting. But for the last 15 years, Ellen has been a phone call away, helping me to drop-kick the indulgent self-pity out the front door, to let in hope and perseverance. She's that kind of person, that kind of friend.

A year has passed, from one Thanksgiving to another. I know only two prayers really well. Last Thanksgiving I kept praying, Please. This year I'm praying the other one: Thank you.


  1. Absolutely beauty.full, Seré. With an abundance of gratitude, I thank you for again sharing your literary brilliance. We are all blessed by your offerings. I will be keeping your dear writing sister, Ellen, in my thoughts and prayers. Hugs!

  2. Sere' - I'm not quite sure how I stumbled upon your writings, but reading your words tonight lifted my spirit and confirmed everything I always knew about you. You are a wonderful person and a terrific writer. Thanks for sharing. I feel so lucky to have had you as a friend.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

  3. You captured the gift you and Ellen have given each other over the years beautifully. I love this.

  4. @Jennifer: Thank you for your ever generous thoughtfulness.

    @Bill: It's wonderful to hear from you! I'm so glad you stopped by, and I can't tell you how much I appreciate your kind words. Hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful.

    @Suz: Thank you, lil sis. Wish we were eating leftovers together :)

  5. If anyone needs to say a big fat thank you, it's me, Ellen.

    This past year has made me aware of how blessed I am to have people like Seré in my life. My friends and family saved my life. I do not exaggerate; I would not have survived without them.

    Someone told me that when an elephant gets sick, the herd crowds in around her to keep her standing because if she falls she will not get up again. That's what Seré and everyone else did for me. Seré talked me out of signing a DNR, and after I relapsed my sister talked me out of it again. I'm not so tough, I'm just very very lucky to have so much love in my life.

    No illness can compete with such an abundance of love. The "thank you" is mine, and it is profound.

  6. You both are very lucky.

    Sincere wishes for health, Ellen.

  7. Sere, this is a beautiful thank you.
    I am grateful to have both Ellen and you to hold trunks with, trumpet sorrow and joy back and forth, and stand beside.

  8. Seré, This story of friendship, resilience and fortitude is truly inspiring. I know Ellen has been through a lot - to say the least - but having friends to keep you going when you're down - physically, emotionally, or mentally - can make all the difference or, as in Ellen's case, help you to fight for your life.

  9. Sere and Elle,
    How fortunate both of you are to have such a deep, meaningful friendship. I don't know either of you all that well, but you've both been wonderfully supportive of me and my writing, and I'm grateful.
    Now, if someone will just tell me how to put the accent over the "e," I will happily do it. My Word keyboard commands don't work in this program. The copy editor in me cringes at the omission.

  10. Now I'm I'm cringing at the more obvious omission: Elle, I'm also grateful for your recovery.

  11. @Ellen: We're not only writing sisters, we're elephant sisters.

    @Jason: Yes we are. Thank you.

    @Chelo: Oh, me, too. And we thought we were simply starting a *writing* group all those years ago...

    @Penelope: Yes, I feel very, very fortunate. Thanks for stopping by. I know from your blog that you've been busy!

    @Carol: I only know how to type it on a Mac, which is: option e, then e again. But no worries or cringing. With an unusual, hard-to-pronounce-and-spell name, I answer to just about anything. :) And I appreciate your support, too, Carol. Thank you.

  12. Sere,
    What a beautiful post about your friend. I wish her healing and emergence from physical struggles.

    Also, I wanted to thank you for stopping by my Confessions the other day. It's always nice to meet a fellow traveler.

  13. @Jessica: Thank you for your kind words and good wishes. I, too, appreciate the visit and really enjoyed your blog. Looking forward to reading more.