Write your epitaph after a lifetime spent as a writer. What would it say specifically in terms of your writing life, about your work as a writer? What do you want it to say? Write it now.


What was given, in prose and idealistic thoughts, was taken away. A dream those left behind are forever grateful to have shared. And should she return to see our mournful disposition, she would ask why, for she found satisfaction in the life she chose to live.


Describe the circumstances of your birth. Now describe the circumstances of your death. Your first moments, and your last. Show the reader how you have changed, evolved, and perhaps regressed. Show us. 

A snowflake falls on the windowsill of a woman desperately pleading for life. The life she was supposed to lead in February, her and her swollen stomach confined to the hospital bed in March, near the presumed due date. For the life writhing inside her pleading for freedom, to take the first breathe a part from her own.

The woman pleads for her husband to stop messing with the camera, the flash blinding as the first beads of sweat emerge on her forehead. He is excited, hands trembling, unscrewing, dropping, fiddling with the lens cap. She doesn’t understand so she is angry. This is his second, her first. She doesn’t want to understand, reaching for his hand, beckoning him to her. Touch was something she barely received as a child. No cuddles or hugs. Kisses only meant to be shared with lovers. A mother that was there physically but never had the time to pick up her children. Coo over accomplishments and tuck in at night. Money was saved for the necessities. Eleven mouths to feed. Eleven minds to keep occupied, Ten children to treat equally. The eleventh, a son, her mother’s favorite. She is the tenth.

The woman never considered herself to be poor, her mother just another example of how all the women treated their children growing up. She never knew otherwise until she met him, started going to parties attached to his arm, entered a house with stairs leading to multiple floors she could decorate with the money she earned and the gifts he provided. A basement became something to hide away the forgettable items instead of a temporary home. She never knew until he held her, cuddled and kissed her. Fingers engulfed by the warmth from his free hand, his other holding the black box, finger presses the silver button. She glares, prisoner of the camera lens.

She pleads for the doctor not to cut her open. Silver blade disappears behind blue sheet. Numb to everything but the new fear of what lies beyond the sheet. Crying, spitting, burping, peeing. Dirty diapers thrown everywhere because the trashcan is overflowing. Husband found nowhere because he didn’t know a babies shrieks were so terrifying. Money for food, clothes and toys. Tuition, car payments, doctors appointments and plane tickets so ten siblings can view one baby. So a mother can greet a new mother.

Her husband shrinks behind the camera.

Snow falls on the windowsill of a new mother cradling her health baby girl. She is crying, arms outstretched, pleading for something she cannot say. The mother lowers her face into the small grasp of her child. Crying, spitting, breathing, cooing, kissing. Tiny body covered in powdered snow from her womb. Captured in the camera lens, a mother’s love for her newborn.

Death came for the writer in the form of her mother, arms wrapping around her shoulders. A warm embrace accompanied by the smell of peaches and strawberries. Soft lips press against the writer’s temple shortening her breath, stopping her hand. She knows this will be her last work, a short story meant to comfort those she is leaving behind. She tilts her head away. The last page must be completed. The writer would then slip away from the career no one though she would achieve, from the children that surprised her with their arrival. From the husband painting in the next room, left kisses upon the fingertips of her writing hand before immersing himself in his work. Blink away the tears, steady the breathing, hold the pencil firmly. The last page must be completed. The writer wonders when she last told her husband she loved him.

Her mother flips through the completed pages of her draft. Long nails painted red circle misspelled words, reorganizes sentences and notes points of confusion. The writer rolls her shoulders, considers the novels and short stories she has written. The story an ambitious illustrator discovered in a literary magazine, sending her a letter asking to do a collaboration on a graphic novel series. The illustrator now working in the neighboring room. The western Quentin Tarantino transformed into a movie, offering to escort her to the premiere.

A blank page presses against the lead of the writer’s pencil, pushed by her mother or the cool breeze causing the tendrils of the writer’s willow to quiver. How long has the window been open?

For my husband, she writes, making a side note that this dedication must be published in her handwriting. Body sagging in her seat, pencil dragging across the page, eyes no longer focusing. Veins swell on the caramel hand she runs through her hair, the color of powdered snow. Mother’s finger taps the page. Deep breath. Don’t stop. Don’t let go. The last page must be completed.

The air from outside no longer chills her, eyes no longer fail her and her body no longer betrays her. The writer loved and was loved. Shared the worlds she imagined and lived the life she didn’t know she wanted. Her mother guides the writer’s hand. New paragraph. The final sentence.

Of this, she was certain.