All writers have a process that allows them to create. However, the art of "Writing" is often mistaken for that "Process." Hopefully this blog explains the difference, and inspires people to develop their crafts, become writers, or just keep on writing.

Monday, April 15, 2024

Writing Aside: Tom Hernandez

This morning I woke to, among other things, an email telling me that at 1:30 a.m., Tom Hernandez, co-founder of the WriteOn group in Joliet, passed away. In all honesty, I knew this email was coming. Everyone who knew Tom knew this email would show up. We had been preparing for this moment for a while, and yet when it arrived, I feel everyone realized they were never actually ready for it. Maybe we can never be entirely ready. And yet, at 1:30 this morning, Tom passed away.

As mentioned, this came as no surprise. A while ago, Tom notified us that he had a pretty vicious form of cancer. He would be fighting the good fight, but he acknowledged that this kind of cancer wasn't one to give up easily, and more often than not, it won the battle. This was a lot to take in, and the fight would in fact be real-life game of crack-the-whip for all parties involved. Eventually it reached a point of inevitability, and everyone found a way to process what the future would be. I took a slightly different spin on it. I made a decision that I would look at what I had learned from this horrible set of experiences, and that's how I will remember Tom.

We all know the classic action-thriller structure: Unwilling character brought into a struggle of immense proportions and forced to not only fight for their very existence against insurmountable odds, but to eventually rise up and be the hero, saving the world and walking away triumphant. It's pretty standard, and it's always good for some high-adventure fun. The classics, however, stand apart from the everyday action movie for one reason, and it has nothing to do with the outcome. Rather, it's all about how the story was told. Did we go into the Lord of the Rings books wondering if Sauron would ultimately conquer Middle Earth, leaving the civilized world in flames? Nope - we knew that good would prevail somehow. The real grabber, however, was the telling of the story, and how everything developed.

Full disclosure: When Tom first made his announcement, a part of me knew - knew - it wouldn't end well. I was supportive and rallied for his cause, but a part of me started preparing for that day I would get the email. However, a funny thing happened. Even though in my mind I knew how the story would end, I started paying more attention to how Tom lived those moments of his fight. I watched as he put forth goals to reach and different landmarks to achieve, how he took a special appreciation for what life he had, even as his very body tried taking it from him. Suddenly, I wasn't thinking about the end of the story, but rather the story unfolding in front of me. And it was fascinating. I learned about living from Tom's last few years of life, even though the story would soon end.

The final conclusion to me is this: We all have that end coming. Some day our friends and loved ones will get that email about us. Young or old, unexpectedly or foreseen, all of our stories end with that email. However, the part that counts the most, the only part that matters, is the story that comes before that final page. To the people seeing our story, we are the hero facing the insurmountable odds, fighting the good fight, and walking away having done the best we ever could. We inspire others around us to be better writers, better people, or just better. The end of the story will come, but people will remember the adventure, so it's up to us to make it a good one. 

Rest in peace, Tom.                

1 comment:

  1. Sorry for the loss of someone who sounds like he was an inspirational component in your life as well as an admired friend.