You can be deeply sad and grateful at the same time.
They’re the two sides of one spinning coin—almost everything amazing is temporary, and the people you love will someday die.
Sylvia Jean “Bunky” Gloster 1933—2018
The dark shadow of mortality is the backdrop for the bright lights in our lives, so sadness is sometimes mixed with gratitude, and gratitude tinged with loss.
The world is burning, friends
And wind makes smoke a wall
Hug those you love and speak your truth,
For one day that is all.
I’ve had a rough month.
The principal novel I’ve been working on for two years slipped into a coma—the main plot, as it turns out, isn’t working, and there aren’t subplots that anchor it in the teen world (generally necessary in YA.) In some ways, that’s good news—I knew something was wrong, and now I have a diagnosis. Plot is also the easiest thing to fix in a novel. But I don’t yet know how I’m going to fix it, so after two years of work, that novel is shelved for a while.
Then my computer died, and while I thought I’d saved everything important elsewhere (I did save my novels in progress--whew) some things weren’t backed up. (Moral: Save your files, several different ways.)
Then my stepmom died.
Sylvia Jean Gloster (aka “Bunky” aka “Honey”) died in her sleep two weeks ago, after giving us one Last Good Day when we could all say goodbye. She was ready to go, at 85, after a full life and after battling a fifth kind of cancer.
I got to know Bunky when I was a teenager. She married my dad after my birth mother died, and in the process my brothers and I won the jackpot in the blended-family lottery: She brought out a playful side in my dad, and we also got terrific stepsisters Cheri and Stormy and stepbrother Skip in the deal.
And Bunky was a treasure. She always treated me like a real son, and she was full of positivity and delight. She survived decades of every health issue known to medical diagnosis, all with an infectious smile full of mischief.
I’m sad with her gone. But I’m grateful and lucky that she was in my life.
I tend to withdraw from the world when I’m sad or depressed, but this month, as I’ve grappled with her loss, I’ve felt held.
My wife, Nancy Ricci, is a nurse who works in a children’s hospice, and she was wonderful at Bunky’s bedside. My family is terrific. And the communities in my life—writing, classmates, Aikido, friends—have been wonderful.
I’m grateful for that, and I don’t feel alone with this.
Bunky was joyous and fierce and short, and the world is smaller without her.
She was a real mom, and she’s still teaching me about gratitude.
So three kisses goodbye, Bunky, and a million thanks for everything.
Dean Gloster received an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts in July 2017. He is a former stand-up comedian and a former law clerk at the U.S. Supreme Court. His debut YA novel DESSERT FIRST is out now from Merit Press/Simon Pulse. School Library Journal called it “a sweet, sorrowful, and simply divine debut novel that teens will be sinking their teeth into. This wonderful story…will be a hit with fans of John Green's and Jesse Andrews's .”
Dean is on Twitter: @deangloster