I am writing from France this week, surrounded by my stunning mountains and their ever-changing beauty that never ceases to leave me inspired and in awe. This time of the year they are ablaze with the many autumn colours ranging from yellows to oranges to the deep hues of red, the preferred autumn colours of the many vineyards nestling in the valleys in the area. All set against the backdrop of a sparkling crystal blue sky. As the vibrancy of the autumn colours would suggest, it is not only heralding the end of another season, but it is also the time for reflection and stocktaking.
Just as the end of one season draws to a close, so does the end of writing of my tribute to Eugene and Pieter. I started the writing of my book in France and I felt that symbolically this is where I had to write the concluding chapter. I had always strived to finish the first draft on, or just before Eugene’s actual birthday, which will be on Monday, the 19th. In a way it was the last gift I would be able to bestow on him. We both loved the autumn with its many vibrant colours, so for many reasons it was the right time to write, The End.
I had squirmed, wriggled and procrastinated, doing everything I could to avoid writing the last chapter of my tribute mainly because it was also the last chapter of Eugene’s life. It is also the final chapter of so many chapters we had shared throughout the years. This reflection brought with it the realization that Eugene was the last person in my life who had known me from birth and who had therefore been part of all the events of my life since then. Writing the final chapter means that those shared memories will therefore be another one of many closing chapters. More significantly, writing the last chapter will be the final act of letting go of Eugene.
As a novelist in any genre, the author gets to choose the end of their novel. However, my book can only have one ending. Even so, the weight of writing about the inevitable ending was so much more than writing the final chapter of a book. It is surprising how many versions one can write of a chapter that could only have one immovable ending. Not only was it the end of a chapter in a book, it was the end of Eugene’s life, his life with Pieter and a life of so many shared memories and experiences. I felt a huge responsibility in closing the book in a way that would continue the celebration of his inspirational life.
Having made a drastic change to my career in order to devote myself to writing the tribute, it is also closing a personal chapter. It is time to reflect on the many options I have available as to what the next stage of both my life and career is going to look like. Having choices can be both liberating as well as paralyzing. In the absence of a crystal ball, one has to try and determine what the various choices may lead to and therefore which is to be the most appealing. The act of choosing also closes the doors on alternative realities and one will never know what living those realities might have been like. However, being an incurable optimist I do not waste time in mourning lost opportunities but instead immerse myself in the unfolding reality of the choices I make. The end of my book is therefore personally also the start of a new beginning.
The ending also means I now need to engage with the daunting process of editing and publishing. Having made the decision to self-publish this time, there is a whole new set of rules I have to learn. How much of this final stage of the process do I do myself and how much do I contract out? And if I do, how do I find the right people? Or, will they find me?
These are the next set of questions I have to answer on this journey. Not only are they practical decisions associated with the process of publishing but more importantly, it is making the right choices for Eugene and Pieter. Ultimately this is their book.