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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: End (02/13/06)

TITLE: Endings
By Karen Heslink
02/17/06


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She looked up at me with midnight blue eyes and said, “The end!” Then she smiled and handed me another book. The world of literature for a two-year old is defined by endings, most often happy and satisfying. Even at two, my granddaughter knows when I have finished reading a book. The main character is happy, the back cover closes, and it’s over. The characters have been carefully crafted for success and the story has a beginning, middle and an ending. I think of books from my own childhood like The Little Engine That Could and The Saggy Baggy Elephant. Themes of trying really hard and fitting in speak to children everywhere, but even then the endings are happy.

In a few short years, Lorelai and I will move into the once upon a time fairytales where everyone except the villain lives happily ever after. After all, we know that only the good characters can live happily ever after. The question that comes to my mind is, “Does children’s literature mislead us?” I have to say that I think the answer is no. As I grew older, my reading expanded as hers will to chapter books like Gary Paulson’s The Christmas Sonata and picture books like Eve Bunting‘s Fly Away Home. Happy endings? No, but these are the books that I go back to even now knowing that the author will draw me into a world so different, so emotional, yet just as satisfying in spite of the less than happy ending. Writing reality might not mean happy endings, but when crafted with sincere emotion, an author can touch places deep within us.

Book endings sometimes mimic life. Life endings can generate strong emotion for those left behind: sadness, pain and loss. My cousin, Kathy, was a spirited and spiritual person. Even after lupus crippled her hands, she continued to minister to others as a registered charge nurse by handling all the paper work hospitals require today; thus allowing the other nurses on her floor to do patient care. Even after her husband Geoff died at forty-eight, she only talked about how wonderful it had been to be married to him in spite of his problems with alcoholism and a liver transplant. She died peacefully surrounded by her two brothers and one sister. She lived a prosperous and generous life. Certainly not generous in years, but definitely generous in the way she worked for the good of others.

When I think of Kathy, I am reminded of the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (NIV). She really embodied each of these in everything she did. I remember at her funeral last fall the funny stories, the lovely memories, and the moments when all I could do was let the tears run down my cheeks. She was a practical joker. She was a musician. She was a second mother to all her nieces and nephews. Like her mother before her, Kathy’s time on this earth was cut way too short. But she left a legacy for all of us. Even in death, she reminded us laugh. Even in death, she made us think. Even in death she held us to a higher standard of living life to the fullest by reaching beyond ourselves.

So the book called Kathy would be about a woman who touched my life through her example, through her love of life and through her untimely death. And it was that untimely death that has had the biggest impact on me. I know now that I need to center myself on what is important: God, family and serving others. Her ending, a sad and painful loss for me, gave my story a new beginning.


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Member Comments
Member Date
Joanne Malley02/23/06
Sweet story written straight from the heart. Nicely wrapped up at the end. :)
Jeffrey Snell02/23/06
Praise God for pouring blessing on His children, even through death!
Anita Neuman02/23/06
Hi, Karen. You asked for a strong critique, so here I go!
First, I'll say that the points you are making are very clearly communicated, with carefully chosen words and a very nice flow.
I was starting to feel like you didn't have a consistent theme, and I was wondering what your main point was. You did bring it back around at the end, but I think your theme could have been more tightly woven throughout the whole thing.
I also felt a little bit distanced. While this was thoughtful and pleasant to read, it didn't suck me in emotionally. You've let the reader OBSERVE that Kathy was a wonderful woman, but we need to FEEL how wonderful she is for ourselves.
Please be encouraged. You are on the right track! Your varying sentence lengths and carefully chosen repetitions are well-crafted to keep the piece moving. Keep at it!
Jan Ackerson 02/23/06
There's a lot of good stuff here. I think that most of the 2nd paragraph could be trimmed, as it begins to seem as if this is an article about children's literature. Focus more on your sister and the book of her life, and you'll be back on the "write" track. Your skills are just fine, now find a way to make your voice stand out!
Marilyn Schnepp 02/24/06
Comment: Very sweet story of a wonderful cousin named Kathy. Critique: Kinda gets bogged down with too much non-essentials. Edit it by taking out all the words that aren't absolutely necessary, a/k/a "trimming it down" to make it a smother and easier read. Very well done, however.
Shari Armstrong 02/25/06
Thanks for sharing this with us, good job :)
Suzanne R02/27/06
Your opening was excellent - those 'midnight blue eyes' had me hooked from the start.

The tribute to your cousin was very touching too. You related the main point of the piece throughout.

Well done, Karen!