Writer’s Block

All authors get it.

Whether pen in hand or sitting at the keyboard. The blank page overwhelms them and they don’t know what to say. It can go on for minutes, days, or years. You don’t know what to write.

There are many techniques for addressing that form of writer’s block. But there’s another one. There’s the block that comes when you know exactly what to write but you just can’t. You’ve got the exactly words in your head and you can’t write them down on paper.

Yesterday, Kim and I were making corrections to the program for Elena’s funeral. Kim decided that she didn’t want a quote on the front page. Just her name and a picture. Oh and the dates.

I wrote “March 3, 1999 -” and then I stopped. How do you complete that thought. How does a father write on paper the date that his daughter died. It was a crippling writer’s block. My hand shook, the tears flowed, others in the room offered to write it for me but I knew that I had to.

Finally, I wrote “February 22, 2006”.

Published in: on February 26, 2006 at 7:57 am  Comments (19)  

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19 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Dan & Kim,

  2. It’s taken me a long time to write this. What do you say to someone who has just lost a precious child? I can’t even begin to imagine your pain. I remember when Kim was pregnant with Elena and how excited you both were.

    Please know that all of you are in my thoughts and prayers.


  3. Dear Dan and Kim and Maggie,
    Please know we all share in your sorrow. It seems like only yesterday we still had the school and were a part of each other’s daily joys and triumphs. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and your strengths via this blog.

    love to you all, Carrie

  4. Kim and Daniel,
    I’ve been thinking about you all since Jill called me to tell me about Elena. My mind cannot still quite believe it; my heart has a new tear in it. My family is now in Salt Lake City visiting Mary Craig’s family. We have talked a lot about our losses and this new loss. We both wish we could be at the service tomorrow and join with our “extended Oberlin family” to grieve Elena and share the loss with you. I really am with you in grief and loss, just far away.

    I have always admired your joy in parenting and your patient style. I know that your family means so much to Laurie and Rick. I love that you are so close, as Jill and I are in Seattle.

    My heart will continue to be with you. I’ll be praying for Elena at the time of her service and after.

    with love,

  5. Dan —

    My deepest sympathy for your loss. I never met Elena but I know her father is at the top of the list of “good people”. My thoughts will be with you.


  6. Dear Daniel, Kim, and Maggie,

    My name is Monica and I am married to your cousin Bill Najem. Bill told me how wonderful Elena was and I am sorry I never had the chance to meet her. I just wanted to let you know that our thoughts and prayers are with you.

    Monica Najem

  7. Dear Daniel, Kim, and Maggie,

    I’ve never met you, yet I feel I know you. I came across “Extreme Teaching” when you were mentioned in “Creating Passionate Users”. From reading “Extreme Teaching”, I got a sense of your passions.

    And yet, the first time I visited, the first item was “A Loss of Continuity.” I felt like I had been punched.

    Your subsequent entries in “Dear Elena” have been beautiful, heartfelt, and heart-breaking. I have already recommended them to a far-away friend dealing with a similar loss.

    Your title, “a loss of continuity,” was a beautiful choice. In the Jewish tradition, one wears a mourning ribbon for 30 days following a death. It is also traditional for the ribbon to be torn. You probably know this, but some of your readers may not. One of my rabbis said that the ripped ribbon represents a tear in the fabric of the universe– a discontinuity that will never be entirely healed.

    Please accept our condolences. You are in our thoughts and prayers.

    I hope you will get to Boston sometime and that I will have the opportunity to meet you in person.

  8. For what it can mean from someone you do not know, and who does not know you – you and your family are in my thoughts.


  9. My wife and I have just returned from the wake of your daughter Elena. There are no words to describe how we feel for you and your family. The only thing I could think about when I got there was to give you and Kim the biggest hug that I could. At work at our desk I have a picture of both your daughters that I see every day and a picture that Maggie painted hanging up. We will never forget Elena and the cute things she would say to me when I was eating my lunch. I will always remember her pretty eyes and pirate smile. I also think about Maggie every night since I heard the news and pray that she is doing well and I”m sure she is with you as parents. We love you very much, Scott and Darla

  10. Dear Daniel and Kim and Maggie–
    I am so heartbroken for you and your family. I wish I could be with you to share my awkward hugs and inadequate words in person. I never got to meet Elena, (or Kim or Maggie), and it has been so many years since I’ve seen you, Daniel. Yet I feel I’ve had a glimpse of who you are through this eloquent and incredible blog. I am holding you all in my heart and weeping many tears.
    Tomorrow will be a difficult day. I will be thinking about all of you and sending you all my love.

  11. My friend sent me to this site. We have much in common yet maybe nothing in common; except for one thing. The death of a child. I am so sorry for your loss. I remember the first few days. They are difficult and that is an understatement. It’s like a fog that surrounds you and you are completely unaware that you are even IN a fog. It’s only later that you can see it. I won’t go on about my experience because now you are seeing your way through the saddest time in your life.

    There is so much to say. So much that can be said. I know that folks will be there. They will say what they will and sometimes it will be just exactly what you need but often it will be exactly what you do not need. Every single person means well though.

    I have gone back and read the entry where you shared that she had died in the ambulance and I sat crying for you and your wife, and for Maggie. I know that for siblings, the effects are far reaching. Far. Our son died almost three years ago and his older brother is still dealing with it all. Kids are strong. In the end, he has faired well. Maggie will too. You are there for her. That is all that matters.

    I will say a prayer for all of you. Your faith will see you through. I know that might not sound as deep as you need it to be but it’s one of the main things that has held us all together. We have not faltered. The glue that held us together before he died is ten times stronger now. We talked about that just today at a late lunch/early dinner. I had yet to read your entries or be led here. It was a completely independant conversation my husband and I were having born from something I brought up with him, just a question, a curiosity about other parents who have felt the same kind of loss.

    I will continue to check on you and keep you all in my prayers. This is not easy but you can and will get through it. This I know.

    Jenn M.

  12. Dear Daniel, Kim and Maggie,

    Beautiful Elana befriended my daughter Hanna as both little sisters dutifully attended their older sisters soccer practices and games…week after week. And you Daniel patiently answered my many “mac vs. pc” questions while we stood in the cold damp Cleveland Fall and Spring as Maggie-a graceful and gifted soccer player ran with boundless energy.

    I just wanted you all to realize how much you have touched your community. We are collectively aching for you and our thoughts and prayers are with you.

    Your blog is an extraordinary gift–thank you for sharing.

  13. Dear Daniel and Kim and Maggie,

    I burst into tears when I heard the news via my sister, Lisa, who lives down the street here in Seattle. I haven’t seen you in so many years and yet, you still feel like family to me. I had the pleasure of seeing your parents this past summer and saw pictures of your beautiful girls, and of course, I’ve gotten to see your wonderful sister, Jill, a number of times over the past few years. My partner and I also have a daughter, the light of our lives, who turned seven last summer. All in all, this sudden and devastating news hit very close to home.
    Your writings have been amazing to read. I get such a sense of your close and loving bond with one another. I’m so touched to be “let in” in this way to some of what you are going through. And I feel comforted to know of the deep love you so appreciate with one another and the family and community you are part of. It’s one thing to be loved. It’s another to be able to really know and feel it. And I send mine to all of you. Big, long, wordless hugs. I will continue to hold all of you and all those who love Elena close in my heart. Love, Judith

  14. Dear Dan, Kim and Maggie,

    We never got to meet Elena as the six year old you’ve written about. We remember her from Biz’s farm in Pa. We look at Elena everyday because of a picture taken that weekend of her, Maggie and Mia that hangs on one of Mia’s school projects in our living room.
    Our thoughts are with all of you.

    Bruce, Rosemary and Mia

  15. Dear Friends,

    We’re so proud of you and so touched by your strength. We’ve shared this blog with all of our other friends and family with humbled pride in the fantastic people we now call our friends. Daniel, your words are eloquent, heart-felt and universal. Kim, your resolve and spirit are a model for others living a similar fate and for those that fear doing so.

    That Elena was a remarkable person is understood. I was moved by the depth and breadth of all the loving people that showed up at her wake. I love the story of the McDonald’s guy as much as I love the story of Will. A friend once taught me a phrase: Elena never met a stranger. You couldn’t meet her and not get swept up in her innocent humanity and her incredible maturity of wit. I only wish I had a tape recorder to capture all the wonderful stories I heard this afternoon.

    Daniel, you may have had to put down on paper February 22, 2006, but you know it’s not over. Elena is way more than the wonderful girl you and Kim gave the world. She’s the spirit we’ve all always felt – the spirit that’s been accentuated these past days. Your family and all the people that love Elena will keep her alive in our deeds and thoughts forever.

    Love – Mike, Patti, Jack, Kate, and Sarah

  16. Dan,

    I, like several of the folks who have left comments, found your blog from Kathy Sierra. My heart goes out to you and your family. I make sure that I tell my 21 month old son “I love you more than you know” every night before he goes to bed… one, because it’s a nice way to fall asleep, and two because I still fear that I could lose him overnight somehow, and I always want those words to be the last thing I would say to him.

    I wish you had never had to see your wife as a grieving mother, and I wish that you did not have to go through this pain. And I wish that you did not have to lose your child.

    My thoughts are with you and your family.

  17. Hello

    This is more for Maggie than you Daniel and Kim.

    I was 9 when my 8 yo brother died. I’m 36 now. The wound is not so open and painfull. The memories and thoughts I have of him now are all fond and loving. I’m not sure but I kind of think some people are too good for this world. Maybe they would suffer seeing our cruelty?

    Time does eventually help things, the sorrow fades and life carries on some how. You can use the memories of your loved one to inspire you throughout your life.

    God’s spirit is with you in your time of need.


  18. Dear Maggie,

    I really got to know you and Elena through playing soccer. I played against you in the summer, and I saw Elena there cheering you on. I thought, “Maggie’s little sister is so cute!” I also was able see how much you loved your sister.

    Being an older sister, I know how hard it is to get along with your sister. Kerstin always says, “It’s my job to annoy you!” Or in other words, “A little sister is ment to be the bigger sister’s annoyance.”

    I have lost some loved ones too. It was not as hard. It was hard for me in teh beginning, but the pain got better with time and talking to my family.

    I used to look at Elena and think to myself, “Maggie is so lucky. I wish I got along with my sister better.”

    I hope that we can get together sometime to kick the ball around, talk, or just hang out (with Kertin). I hope that you will consider playing during the next session of indoor soccer. I also hope that you will play soccer during the spring.

    You are always in my prayers,

  19. Dear Daniel,

    I’ve been reading your journal each day hoping that writing about this tragedy will help you understand it and somehow get you through this horrible ordeal. Everything happened so fast. Suddenly Elena was gone and nothing could be done. You did everything you could have done. This is a terrible disease, and the information you have posted about it for others may save another. I’m sorry about Elena. She sounds like a delightful child who just might say, “If this is all I get, it’s been a great life.”

    When Norm knew he was dying, that’s what he said. Granted, he was older, but, for me, he was too young to die. So was Elena, but I know she had a wonderful life with you and Kim as her parents. I hope Maggie will be ok, and I know that your parents and sibs must be grieving deeply. I’m glad everyone is there with you and that you have each other.

    I will continue to hold good thoughts for you and Kim and for your eventual acceptance of this all too painful loss. Yes, it’s true. How can anyone else know your pain? All I can do is send you love and positive energy hoping that somehow it will help.

    Please tell Kim that my friend Brian and I are lighting candles for Elena at St. John’s Cathedral in Cleveland and at Holy Rosary in Little Italy. And since I cannot be there with you, I am saying Psalm 23 and the Mourner’s Kaddish on my own to keep the faith with you as best I can. I will also put Elena’s name in the Book of Intentions at Sacred Heart in Oberlin on Ash Wednesday.

    May you have abundant peace from heaven. Both Jennifer and Steven send their love and peace to you as well. Please share my letter with Kim and your family.

    With much love, Barbara Care

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