When my mother died in 2002 at the age of fifty-nine, I found myself both shattered and honored to have been a witness. In order to live and to keep her memory alive, I needed to make sense of her death.
I knew I would inevitably write about her, but I wasn’t certain what form the material would take. Eventually I realized it could be –it had to be– a memoir. The result is Please Talk about Me When I’m Gone.
The antagonist of this particular tale is cancer, but implicit in the narrative is an appreciation that a struggle with illness—and the ways it can unite or disintegrate families—is a true story for too many people. It can be a horror story or a ghost story, a love story and a real-life fairy tale, where memory and devotion are capable of outlasting death.
The memoir unfolds in a range of voices—first person, second person, third—from the points of view of a mother, a father, a son. The story of one woman’s life and death is interpolated with meditations on the causes and effects of alienation and empathy, faith and friendship, and the cultivation of an artistic sensibility. The whole is an examination—and interrogation—of sickness, grief, love, and remembrance.
My ultimate goal is to raise awareness, and I will be working closely with cancer-affiliated groups and charities to raise funds. My experience has reinforced a belief that nobody should (or need to) go through this alone: if my memoir builds solidarity and empowers anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation, I know I’m honoring my mother’s memory in a way she would advocate.
Sean Murphy discusses the book and his writing career in this extended interview: www.indieauthornews.com
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