Well, I’ve done it! Two years ago I was challenged to write a biography about my mother. I had just finished an early draft of a book containing a selection of her poetry. (Beginning at the age of seven, she was a lifelong poet.) My friend and writing critic – no, that’s not an oxymoron – read the draft and offered this suggestion:
“Rick, there’s a story here about her life. You should write a book.”
Though skeptical, I was ultimately convinced to write at least the first chapter. Then I was hooked.
With the help of many people – my writer friends, the Greece Barnes & Noble Writers Group, my wife and family – I gathered the tales that describe my mother’s journey through this world. Searching for those stories – stories that would bring her to life for some future reader – was so much fun. My parents are both deceased, but I was fortunate to have received and retained not only the folder containing all of my mother’s poetic efforts, but also her diaries, notebooks full of a teenager’s ideas, English assignments from college, and a number of short stories she had published describing memorable times in her life. Supporting these were the stories shared by others who knew and loved her. It was a sometimes difficult task, but, Oh! So rewarding.
Countless times, various bits and pieces were reviewed, critiqued, corrected and enhanced by my family and writing peers. With each review I was sent back to my pad and pencil to re-work what I had thought was complete. I must admit, though, with each such episode, the end product was better than before. On one occasion, our writing group’s talented facilitator questioned what I had written about the death of my nine year old brother. (I was only four at the time of his death.) “It’s too factual,” she said. “Go home and write until you cry.” I did as she said. Later, while reviewing a near final draft of my book, my older brother told me he sobbed for twenty minutes when he read it.
When I was a young boy, my mother often told stories of her own childhood. She proudly proclaimed, “I never grew up. I’m just a child at heart.” Her life as presented in “The Candles of My Life” is a mixture of fun stuff and sadness, of earthy goodness and spiritual pursuit. Her underlying strength lay in a close and personal relationship with God. Throughout her life, with only one exception, Helen believed and trusted in her Heavenly Father. At the age of 83, after a quiet family-centered life, she went Home.
For Helen Corrigan Iekel, writing poetry was a life-giving necessity. With a tenacity largely unrewarded by publishers, she used her poetry to express the beauty of her life experience and often found comfort in it when that world seemed to collapse. The reader will find her poetry interspersed throughout the book because, without seeing what she wrote, one cannot fully appreciate the woman that she was.
I am happy that “The Candles of My Life” is finally published – happy to offer it for the world to experience. Check it out at Amazon.com.