Wednesday, June 13, 2007


No… this isn’t about book endings (Marcus did that last January). Or about the ending of The Sopranos (Kevin did that the other day). Or the season finale of The Shield(only one more season? Please say it isn’t so!)

It’s about real-life endings. And it’s somewhat personal, so if you’d rather not go there, stop reading now.

My youngest child graduated from high school a few days ago. Two months from now she’ll be off to college. A major phase of her life– and mine – will be ending, and while I’m not sure what to expect, I do know the house will be quieter. And emptier. (My son already goes to law school.)

My 13-year-old Beagle – has Cushings Disease. He’s on medication, but his old age, plus the complications of the disease have taken their toll. He can’t get comfortable in any position for long, he’s losing his hair, and he won’t go down steps. We still take walks every day, but aside from those, he doesn’t do much but sleep. I know we are closer to the end than the beginning

I went to my high school reunion last month. It was a big one, and the night before I had dinner with my high school boyfriend. He was my first love -- the one you still have a soft spot for. I listened to his story, which includes three marriages, three kids, working and traveling all over the world. While it was enjoyable, it made me realize how far apart we’d grown, and how many connections to my past have ended.

I’m about two chapters away from finishing my sixth novel. It’s just the first draft, but the story has been told. The rush of figuring out how it’s going to unfold is over. Now it’s down to mechanics: good prose, suspense, believability. After living with this book for over a year, it’s an ending of a special kind -- you writers know what I’m talking about. I’m already feeling a void, a detachment, which will only disappear when I throw myself into a new story.

None of these are earth-shattering events. They’re the kind of passages we all enter and exit in life. And I’m not overly sad or depressed about them, since I know endings are also beginnings. I’ll be living in a house that actually stays clean for a few hours… enjoying the freedom to eat ice cream for dinner… meeting new people… starting a new book. Already the possibilities are materializing like a rosy summer dawn. And yet part of me wants to stay in that dusky purple hour of evening just a little while longer, watching the light fade into night.

What’s been the most difficult ending for you to navigate? How’d you get through it?


Maryann Mercer said...

For me it was my dad's death. When your parent lives to 90+, in really good health (no major problems other than a pacemaker) it is so easy to believe he'll be around forever. We talked like clockwork every Sunday at 1PM. I still miss that. He did get to go more or less on his own terms, and we were there at the last breath, so there was closure of sorts. But you know, becoming an orphan takes some getting used to...even at my age. And, I find myself tempering some of my habits because I know he's watching. (And my sister and I see each other more now.)
On the positive side, I like Paul McCartney's The End of The End...that's exactly how my dad would have wanted us to remember him.
Libby, my daughter's beagle Sparky has Cushings far his meds are working. Cath says that's all she can ask. He's 16.
Very thoughtful post. Thanks.

Ed Lynskey said...

Really sorry to hear about your pet beagle. We lost our two longtime pet cats on successive Christmases. You get really attached to them.

Libby Hellmann said...

Thanks, Maryann, for sharing the ending with your father. It sounds like he had about the best possible circumstances. And Ed, thanks for your concern about Shiloh. I'm a little fearful -- I'm going on vacation and he's going to a kennel.

Barbara D'Amato said...

Libby, right now we're babysitting a friend's miniature Australian sheepdog who has been a friend of ours for more than a dozen years [the dog, as well as the owner]. The dog is fourteen, partly blind, mostly deaf. And sweet.

There's no punchline to this. She will go home with her owner next week and I don't expect to see her alive again.

Sadness here.

Steve Malley said...

For me, my hardest ending was literally a new beginning - my emigration from the United States.

The day my return flight from New Zealand took off without me on it, I was struck by just how far I was from everything I'd ever known. It was a lost, lonely feeling, but also the start of the best part of my life so far.

Sadly, my people back in the US are getting on in years. Every trip back to the land of my birth means I'm probably saying goodbye to someone I love for the last time...

Sara P said...

Libby, I'm so sorry about your beloved beagle. A hard loss.

Jade Walker said...

Mine is definitely in the pet realm. I've had one of my cats for 16 years...and while she's still healthy, she's slowed down quite a bit.

I'm always devasted when I lose an animal, but her passing when it comes will be particularly heart-breaking. My heart goes out to you. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful entry with us.