A Story Idea Each Day for a Month — Day 12

This is the eighth year in a row I've run this series in April. Last week I provided a daily explanation about why you should make it a habit to be generating story ideas. This week, I'll give you some tips on how to come up with stories.

Tip: Look at Craigslist.

Dreamworks bought this pitch based on Craigslist ads.

There is this musical based on Craigslist ads.

There was this TV movie based on a Craigslist story.

Now something proactive you can do for your writing career while searching for a used barbell set.

Today: A Letter to the Doctors and Nurses Who Cared for My Wife.

After his 34-year-old wife suffered a devastating asthma attack and later died, the Boston writer Peter DeMarco wrote the following letter to the intensive care unit staff of CHA Cambridge Hospital who cared for her and helped him cope.

As I begin to tell my friends and family about the seven days you treated my wife, Laura Levis, in what turned out to be the last days of her young life, they stop me at about the 15th name that I recall. The list includes the doctors, nurses, respiratory specialists, social workers, even cleaning staff members who cared for her.

"How do you remember any of their names?" they ask.

How could I not, I respond.

Every single one of you treated Laura with such professionalism, and kindness, and dignity as she lay unconscious. When she needed shots, you apologized that it was going to hurt a little, whether or not she could hear. When you listened to her heart and lungs through your stethoscopes, and her gown began to slip, you pulled it up to respectfully cover her. You spread a blanket, not only when her body temperature needed regulating, but also when the room was just a little cold, and you thought she'd sleep more comfortably that way.

You cared so greatly for her parents, helping them climb into the room's awkward recliner, fetching them fresh water almost by the hour, and by answering every one of their medical questions with incredible patience. My father-in-law, a doctor himself as you learned, felt he was involved in her care. I can't tell you how important that was to him.

Then, there was how you treated me. How would I have found the strength to have made it through that week without you?

How many times did you walk into the room to find me sobbing, my head down, resting on her hand, and quietly go about your task, as if willing yourselves invisible? How many times did you help me set up the recliner as close as possible to her bedside, crawling into the mess of wires and tubes around her bed in order to swing her forward just a few feet?

How many times did you check in on me to see whether I needed anything, from food to drink, fresh clothes to a hot shower, or to see whether I needed a better explanation of a medical procedure, or just someone to talk to?

How many times did you hug me and console me when I fell to pieces, or ask about Laura's life and the person she was, taking the time to look at her photos or read the things I'd written about her? How many times did you deliver bad news with compassionate words, and sadness in your eyes?

Peter DeMarco and his wife, Laura Levis, hiking together in Scotland. Credit Photo courtesy of Peter DeMarco

This is such a tragic, yet beautiful story. Having been present for the deaths of both of my parents, I can attest to the extraordinary sense of empathy and sheer humanity on the part of the nurses, doctors, and administrative staff. It's remarkable how these strangers become your intimate helpmates in such an emotionally stressful time.

Contemporary first-world societies have done what they can to remove the specter of death from our lives. Think about it: Do you know where the nearest cemetery is? And yet apart from our birth and life, the only thing we know for certain is that we will die. Very little of what we learn in our cultural comings and goings prepares us for attending to the death of a loved one.

Read through Peter DeMarco's account of he and his wife's last week together. So many powerful moments. Even the tiniest little kindnesses on the part of the hospital staff take on enormous personal meaning. It's a story which deserves to be told.

The last day of a loved one's life. Nothing more than family… friends… hospital staff… the spouse… and the person who is dying.

Tell that story honestly… drama, no melodrama… from the public spectacle of dozens of friends and family gathering to celebrate the life of their dying friend… to the private intimacy of a grieving lover and their beloved.

Godspeed to all caregivers out there.

My twelfth story idea for the month.

Each day this month, I invite you to click on RESPONSES and join me to do some further brainstorming. Take each day's story idea and see what it can become when you play around with it. These are all valuable skills for a writer to develop.

See you in comments. And come back tomorrow for another Story Idea Each Day For A Month.

For other posts in my A Story Idea Each Day for a Month (2017) series, go here.


A Story Idea Each Day for a Month — Day 12 was originally published in Go Into The Story on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Go Into The Story – Medium

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