Thursday, April 25, 2013

V is for Verna (by Steven Friedman)

For this year's A-Z Challenge, I am organising my writing group's participation for the first time. So I am posting each entry here as well as on the website, Write On, Mamas! who are a writing group based in the San Francisco North Bay area. We will have 25 Mamas and one Papa writing on a different letter of the alphabet during the A-Z Blog Challenge. Comments are always so appreciated here or it would also be lovely if you would comment on the Write On, Mamas! blog. Thanks and look forward to reading your blog.

Photography by Mary Allison Tierney

Verna died more than two years ago and there have been waves of sadness and grief rushing up against a shore fortified by the blessings of life—friends and family pitching in with play dates for Maya, picking up Miguel from baseball practice, watching Maya in the afternoons, inviting us to holiday meals and barbecues.
Amidst our recovery, I wonder about how the kids are processing their mother’s death. Maya, seven years old, had one year of play therapy at hospice and another several months of private counseling with a young woman who brought her polished stones and helped her articulate her loss and grief with Barbie dolls and role playing so she could continue to heal.

Miguel, 15, a freshman in high school, is quieter about his grief, rarely mentioning Verna and the enormity of his loss. He just doesn’t do death well. He refused to continue having me read Old Yeller to him when he found out the dog dies at the end. He asked to stay with a friend when Verna’s death was imminent.
Over the past few weeks he’s had to take pictures for his photography elective, something he’s done in the neighborhood, around town, even on vacation, choose two per topic and then upload the polished versions to his personal blog, Miguel’s Photography.
Photo by Miguel Friedman
He asked me recently to look at his posts. There was one picture of pinkish roses, similar to the double delights that were Verna’s favorites, besides which he wrote: “While we were at a butterfly farm [outside Delray Beach], we came upon some roses. My mom, who passed away in 2010, loved roses. So when I saw the roses I just had to take a picture. I took it in honor of my mom.”

Miguel’s words and photograph brought tears to my eyes and made me ache for Verna and love Miguel even more. Miguel used his picture (in place of too many words) to say that Verna’s death still hurts and honor her memory.

Steven Friedman was widowed in 2010 and has two children. His book, Golden Memories of the San Francisco Bay Area, was published in 2000 and went to a second printing within six months. He has written for Rethinking Schools, the Marin IJ, KQED, the Northern California Jewish Bulletin, and had essays published in two anthologies. One of his essays placed second last year in a national writing contest. He is working on a memoir about his family's cancer journey, It's Not About the Breasts. And he's in love again.


  1. A rough go had to be on all, cancer needs to be gone, crummy thing.

  2. Very sad. I hop roses will always hold good memories.

  3. Yes, cancer is evil. Roses will always be special to me, and I hope to all of us.

  4. :(

    I don't think losing a close loved one ever gets less painful, but we're able to fill our hearts with additional things and people to love over time. It's been 8 years since my father and brother passed away, and I still miss them all the time. I can't imagine how it would be to lose a spouse with young children. God bless you!

  5. Oh how sad! Glad your son found a way to process his grief and honor is mother. May you all continue to heal.

  6. Crystal-God bless you and us all. I am very sorry for your losses. Our wounds remain, but, yes, we also fill ourselves with love and beauty.

  7. Steven, Well done! I have an award for you at more...Millvallison