Learning from Old Written Work

I’ve often thought that one of the best ways to improve as a writer is to go back and read your old work. Read it with a critic’s eye. Laugh when you read it. Cringe. See how far you’ve come as a writer. Lately I’ve been reading a lot of my old articles and realizing how much my voice has developed, and how much less verbose I am when writing.

I plan to occasionally post some of my old work here as an exercise in editing and to see how I’ve grown as a writer. I’ll start off with a somewhat sad piece, but one that’s meaningful to me. It’s the eulogy I wrote for my mom’s funeral. At the time, I was an 11-year-old trying to be strong for everyone else. In the eulogy, I give advice about how to deal with my mom’s death, which is ironic considering I didn’t heed any of the advice myself. Deep down, I was afraid, sad and in denial.

You can tell by the highfalutin language I use in the eulogy that my words were almost too good to be true. When I read it now, I get sad to think about the girl behind those words of encouragement, the girl who covered up her sadness with words of hope, the girl who couldn’t bear to lose the mom who everyone always told her would “be OK.”

We learn in life, though, that not everything goes as planned, that people die too soon, that it takes a while for us to come to terms with death and what it means to “move on.” Life goes on, but I’d be lying if I said the pain of death goes away. Part of moving on is being truthful to yourself and not pretending that everything’s OK.

So, too, does this apply to personal writing. When I write personal essays, I tend to end them on a really positive note, which sometimes makes the essays’ endings sound forced. I’m learning that it’s better to be real — with yourself and your readers.

Here is the eulogy. I’d be curious to hear what you think about it. Feel free to share your comments.

Robin, my mother, was a pure angel who was sent to us by the Lord Almighty. Her everlasting wings brought her here on Earth to us and brought her back up to Paradise. My mother, why she was a wonderful, loving, and sincere person. She was a person who was put on Earth to take away our deepest sorrows, worries and hurts. And truthfully that is exactly what she did.

My mother was a mighty strong fighter. She was a brave soldier in a battle. She was a hiker climbing a steep mountain, a mountain with rough, rigid rocks. And she climbed those rocks with a strong wind blowing against her. She climbed those rocks often with difficulty, and sometimes with no difficulty whatsoever. Yet the wind was just too hard to take, and it thrust her to the bottom of the mountain.

We all have to realize that even though Robin can not be seen physically be the human eye, she can be seen and heard with our hearts. Whenever you feel that you would like to speak with my mother or just tell her how much you love her, all you have to do is find the doors to your hearts and open them, and she will be right there. In fact, she is watching each and every one of us right now, at this very minute. Her spirit fills this room that we are in.

We all know that this is the beginning of a new chapter in our lives and that life goes on. For some of us right now, our courage is scattered around here and there in various places. Yet it is our responsibility, for our own good, and for Robin’s sake, that we take our hands and gather all of those pieces, big and small, to form our courage. For I know that this is what my mother would want us to do, this is what she would do.

Everything happens for a reason. Although, that reason is often hard to find. But believe me, sooner or later in life you will find that reason. Now we should all still cry, and we should always keep Robin in our hearts, but we cannot let it bother us for the rest of our lives. We can’t keep going back to that old chapter, but look forward to the new chapter in our lives, and just hope that it brings us the best of luck and much happiness.

This is hard to do, I know, to find that new chapter, but we can all do it if we try. Just think, my mother, Robin Jo Tenore, is walking along the streets of gold, she’s having the time of her life. She no longer suffers from pain. She is now in the hands of God, she is now in Heaven. A place where she truly belongs.

Published by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

Mallary is a mom of two young kiddos -- Madelyn and Tucker. Mallary absolutely loves being a mom and often writes about the need to find harmony when juggling motherhood and work. Mallary is the Assistant Director of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin, where she manages the Center's various programs related to distance learning, freedom of expression, and digital journalism. Previously, she was Executive Director of Images & Voices of Hope and Managing Editor of The Poynter Institute’s media news site, Poynter.org. Mallary grew up outside of Boston and graduated from Providence College in Rhode Island. In 2015, she received a certificate in nonprofit management from Duke University. She now lives in beautiful Austin, Texas, with her kids, husband Troy and cat Clara. She's working on a memoir, slowly but surely. You can reach her at mjtenore@gmail.com.

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