Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Memorial Day Musings

I write a lot of death scenes. Understandable, since my books center around wars in the Middle Ages. If you escaped the swords of the enemy, there was always plague or famine to do you in. In Road from the West, my protagonist's younger brother perished, along with thousands of unnamed Crusaders. In Flower of the Desert, the sequel I'm currently writing, I've already killed off three characters, fairly important ones, too.... No names, though. My lips are sealed. You'll have to wait until the book is released at the end of this year.

Monday was Memorial Day, a time to reflect on and honor those who died in the service of our country. While reflecting, I realized that--for all the dire death scenes in my fiction--I've never experienced death at close quarters. I've never had anyone near to me pass away. I'm sure that will change in the near future as time takes its toll on friends and relatives, but as of today, I've never experienced the pain, the grief, the loss of losing someone irrevocably.

For my husband, things are entirely different. He served as a sniper in the U.S. Army over in Mosul, Iraq. Several of his platoon members died following the call of duty, and two friends in particular: Adam Plumondore and Benjamin Morton. When we found out we were expecting twin boys, my husband decided to name them after his two friends, as a way to memorialize them.

Yesterday, the day after the Memorial Day crowds had come and gone, my husband took our two boys down to the Willamette National Cemetery in Portland, Oregon to visit the grave of Adam Plumondore. My sister-in-law Amy went along to take pictures, and she wrote a touching post about the outing on her photography blog. My husband doesn't talk about emotions much, or about friendship, or about his past life in the Army. But when I see how important things like yesterday's graveside visit are to him, I get a small picture of how the death of these close ones has affected him.

They say to write about what you know. Death, and especially the death of soldiers, isn't in the realm of my experience. But human experience can be learned from watching others. And when I see my husband take pains to remember and honor his lost friends, I can understand a little bit better how an eleventh century Norman, in a land not so far away from Mosul, Iraq, would cherish the memory of a brother lost on the field of battle.


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