The other day, I learned that a story I told for “The Moth Radio Hour” — “The Weight of a Ring,” describing the aftermath of my husband’s suicide — will be included a collection to be published next year by Crown. I was, of course, blown away.
But I wasn’t just blown away by the glad tidings or what they might bring in the future. What clobbered me sideways was the reminder, yet again, that good can come of ill, that a happy revelation can emerge from a horror — not negating it, not diminishing it, but reaping from it some unforeseen and startling grace that prods us gently forward.
I was also struck, yet again, by the long arms of a story. Not just my story. Any story. Its reach goes on and on.
A day before I learned about “The Moth” collection, I received a tweet from a man in the UK who had just heard my tale on the BBC: “Thank you,” he zapped through the ether. “Of much help to a new and puzzled widower.” I’ve received other such responses, to both my story and my book, and each time I’ve come away with a heightened sense of gratitude and awe at the power of narrative.
It’s a strange thing, sharing so much of myself and my grief with the world — my darkest self, my deepest grief. When I dreamed of becoming a writer, I didn’t dream of this. I didn’t dream of a life writing memoirs of death. I didn’t dream I’d be torn to bits by loss and loss and more loss and then knit myself together, or try to, by braiding words into story and then bringing that story to others. But the urge to tell overtook me.
Telling didn’t make me seamless. It didn’t make me whole. I am as much a wreck as I ever was, in some ways more so. But telling heals, and not just me. I’m not sure I mean me at all. I’m not sure me matters, once a story is told. The author is just the helper, the conduit, the vessel that carries the elixir of narrative to those who need it most.
So if that widower in Britain feels a little less alone, then my grief has served some purpose. It almost doesn’t matter if I heal. I’ve helped him heal — and that, to me, is the miracle of a story. It just keeps moving, just keeps telling, just keeps pulling light out of darkness and good out of ill. Somehow, it grows. Its embrace moves ever outward.