A Piece of My Mind: A
Writer's Last Words
Don't say you don't have enough time. You have exactly the same
number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur,
Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and
~ H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
This letter is NOT fiction. This is a letter I personally
received. It has been edited for content and language.
First, a few facts. My friend Jonathan died in the middle of December.
Cancer took him from all of us who loved him. He fought a three-year battle with colon cancer. He worked up until six months ago, when he said he
could not work full time anymore. He took early retirement to spend time
with his family and see if he could beat this cancer. In the end, the demon
enemy still won the war.
He was, as he once called himself, “a government package” writer. He
wrote those books and fliers you get from our government. I bet many of you
have read a piece or two of his work. He once remarked to me “Did you see
the new Social Security benefit pamphlet that just came out, I wrote that!”
He was so proud of his work - as any other writer would be. As he once
told me, he wrote best sellers that you may see and never ever read.
On Christmas Eve, about two weeks after he passed away. I received a
two-page handwritten letter from him. The letter was written two days before he died. The missive brought me to
tears and a smile or two as I read it.
You know I have been feeling sicker these days. I have been wanting
to write this letter to you. It has been a long time since we talked.
Joyce recently told me how much she missed your witty banter over our
dinner table. What I remember the most are our discussions about writing
and the craft of writing. They were always full of zest, funny and even
inspiring to me. For that, I must thank you.
How do I sum up a lifetime of putting ideas on paper? If we were
conversing on the phone or in person, we would be talking for hours.
Well, old friend, this letter is my venting on paper. I tried to call
you (Personal note: I was on a trip when he called).
You understand reflection is a painful bedfellow when you look way back.
So I am bleeding out my rant on paper to you. I feel you would
understand this best. Pardon my grammar and spelling mistakes since I am
just free writing as you have always told many writers to do. What the
expressions you said. JUST LET IT FLOW!
I remember when you talked to that young writer at the workshop we
both went to a few years ago. During your question and answer session,
He said he was new at writing and wanted advice. Many in the audience
laughed at him when he asked how you thought of writing. You overlooked the group and looked right at him.
In a gentle voice you told him
that his pen was like a sharp sword. Words can cut a slice of bread,
bring someone to their knees and maim them, or give them hope. You
then told him “Always give the reader hope.” Many who laughed were
suddenly silent. I think you should have been a teacher.
You once asked me when I considered myself a writer (click
here to read the column). I told you my answer. I also said
to you that my work was not worth printing. I said I am and will always
be a government hack. You said I wasn’t! For that I will be indebted to
you. You told me any writing is still writing. I looked at my job
differently from then on. I do not know if I became prouder after we
talked, but I felt my words meant something.
Bennet, you bring such joy and passion to your work. You try your
best to share that vibe with many. You tell them to listen to the inner
voices in their head and write from their heart. You always push for
everyone else to do better than you. I saw it many times when writers
ask you advice in the workshop halls, at dinner and just about
everywhere including the bathroom. You just give it so freely, I wonder
if you made time for yourself. You told me “These men and women are my
future. If no one answers their questions, it would be a great waste and
a true loss.”
I have not told you this and I been meaning to for a long time. I regale
in your true life tales about being a writer that you tell these
students. I, as many others, have enjoyed your columns as well. It is
the real you that comes out in your words.
If I don’t have a chance to talk, Just know that I know you are an
amazing man. It has been a joy to know you.
Once I finished the letter, a smile and tears streaked my face. We lose
so many in our lives. After I put the letter down, I called my mother on the
phone and just said “I LOVE YOU MOM”. She asked if there was something
wrong. I just said “No, Mom, I have not said it enough!” Is there a message,
maybe for 2010, we need to tell those around us that we love them more.
RIP Jon, I miss you very much! I thank your wife Joyce for allowing me to
reprint this letter. I hope she and your daughters enjoyed me reprinting
your letter. Note Joyce, I did edited out all the Bombs that Jon wrote. He
can curse like a sailor, even in a letter. However I write a PG column!
So until next time, REACH FOR THE STARS!
This article is the sole property
of the author. It is produced here with the author's permission. The unauthorized use or reprinting of an article is
illegal, and will be
prosecuted at the discretion of the
Fiction Fix Home Page
About the Writer:
Bennet Pomerantz is a media review columnist in
175 newspapers with his weekly column AUDIOWORLD. His fiction and
reviews have appeared in the pages of Affaire De Coeur, Gateways, Mystery
Scene, Power Star, The Hot Corner, Washington Entertainment Magazine, and
many others. He is also known for his review appearances on the MCN
Forum. View his web site at