Life and death... and everything that happens in between

Deep Trouble: A Kim Claypoole Mystery
Award winning Southern author, Allen Gurganus, best known for his 1989 debut novel, Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All, once wrote:

“The novelist needs both a dictionary and a cemetery. Graveyards offer more than your eventual remaindered resting-shelf. Approached in the joyful spirit of mortal play, they provide historic bullet points, bird sanctuaries, excellent fictitious names, and the lifelong source of such sweet calm.”

Perhaps, Gurganus’ words were floating around in the back of my mind when I accepted a position as a family service counselor at a cemetery in Portland, Oregon.   My job is to assist families with their preneed arrangements as well as those who are at need.  I spend a lot of time in the cemetery, or park as we call it.  Every day I am reminded of all of the many lives and stories that are evidenced when I pass each grave and headstone, from Hattie T. who lived 103 years to infants who never took their first breaths.

I visit with those who have come to pay their respects to their loved ones like Melanie S. whose young husband’s life was taken in a tragic car accident.  She brings along a CD player because he was a jazz musician and loved music, and she sits for hours at his grave each week and listens quietly to Chet Baker, Dave Brubeck and Ornette Coleman.  Sam H. brings apples and leaves them on his sister’s grave because he knows that the deer will come for them.  Holly R., who is five years, old recently lost her mother to breast cancer.  She comes on the weekends with her cousins and aunt who sits by the grave quietly as Holly and her cousins run and play in and around the headstones.

Life and death, the inescapable circle, and everything that happens in between is what we as writers are responsible to observe, absorb, filter, allow to marinade in the juices of our own experiences and record. This is a weighty responsibility, but one that can bring great satisfaction, even joy and, occasionally more than a bit of humor.

Jean Erhardt was raised in the small rural town of Amelia, Ohio, about twenty five miles out of Cincinnati.  "I wrote my first mystery story when I was in fourth grade. It was about a kid a lot like me who heard strange noises coming from the attic and became convinced that the attic was haunted. Eventually, the mystery was solved when she investigated and found a squirrel eating nuts in a dark corner. It wasn't a terribly exciting conclusion, but my teacher gave me an A anyway." 


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  1. Thanks for hosting today and for being part of the tour. If anyone would like to enter the giveaway you can do so by going to


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