Bert Edens has been making up stories since he was old enough to talk, a habit which tended to get his hind-end tanned and his nose stuck in a corner. Along the way, he decided to start writing some of them down. His youth was filled with imaginative creations of everything from sci-fi epics to send-ups of the “Friday the 13th” series. His first print credit was a story about his older son, Zak, published in the 2001 anthology “Living Miracles: Stories of Hope from Parents of Premature Children”. Life then got in the way, so to speak, as he focused on raising his two sons and becoming a widower, the latter not by choice, of course. He has recently had two flash fiction pieces published in anthologies, had a non-fiction piece published in a magazine for disability awareness, and has multiple stories accepted for publication with countless others submitted and looking for homes.
Bert lives in Arkansas with his amazing wife, Carrie, whom he married in June 2018, and older son Zak, with his younger son Josh living nearby. Besides being a writer and editor, Bert spends his spare time teaching martial arts, working security, and doing application development and customer support for an Arkansas-based technology company.
You can read all you want about Bert at his website www.bert-edens.com.
Pain. The best stories come from pain.
We all love a happy ending full of hugs, kisses, rainbows, and riding off into the proverbial sunset, but the most powerful, visceral reactions readers experience come from stories that set their hearts, minds, and souls on end. Flip-flop their expectations of how things should be and give them sinister glances into how things could be, and you will hold their attention.
There is some semblance of schadenfreude in reading about other people’s suffering. You can lose yourself in the story, feel the pain and heartache, and cry along with them. Yet, when it’s all done, you can just close the book and be done with it. You can revel in that fact that, whew at least that wasn’t you.
While I write and have been published in many genres, dark fiction always seems to be where the stories flow like a river as I’m putting them to paper. People who know me but are just learning I’m a writer are often surprised by this, because I tend to be the epitome of an eternal optimist. I have a ready smile and word of encouragement that is genuine because I truly want everyone to be happy, even those who have harmed me or those I love. I can’t wish ill will on anyone because I’ve been there and felt those barbs.
I write about children being abused, be it physically, emotionally, or sexually, not because I espouse that kind of cruelty, but because I know what it’s like. My childhood was full of countless challenges that affected me well into my first marriage because I honestly had no idea what a healthy relationship looked like. I struggled, we struggled, and I grew while Jann had the patience of Job waiting for me to start acting like an adult, husband, and father.
Broken adults come from broken children. Broken adults make the best artists, both before and after they have been reassembled, the cracks and flaws filled with mortar. But those scars are still visible, often glowing and pulsing and bleeding, and they are my Muse.
I write about death not because I enjoy it, but because I have known potential and real loss. I have sat in a chapel outside the NICU as doctors stopped and restarted Zak’s heart, hoping to reset a potentially fatal arrythmia. Jann and I held each other close knowing there was a chance, however slight, his heart would not restart. We had already almost lost him at birth, and here we were again, just a few days later, having to face that possibility again.
All through Zak’s youth, we worried about every little thing. He was fragile, and we were worried that every little illness, bump, bruise, or that next doctor visit would be when he would fracture. Tip-toeing on egg shells is no way to go through life, especially as I was still finding my way before all this extra emotion and stress and pain was heaped onto our marriage.
But potential loss is a mere sliver of a shadow compared to the engulfing darkness of actual loss. In January 2011, Jann died suddenly and literally in my arms. All our worlds were shattered by that single moment. Zak and Josh were seventeen and fourteen, respectively, when she died. While it was hard on Zak, Josh was much closer to his mother than to me, and it was devastating to him. Losing a parent is the natural order of things, but you expect it to happen when you’re in your forties or fifties, not when you’re a teen.
When that tsunami of pain and suffering hits, all you can do is lean into it, brace your feet, and suffer the force of the waves, hoping you don’t drown. But the funny thing about water, even a tsunami, is that it only flows in one direction, just like life. So, you go where it takes you because you can’t go back. You go to bed every night relieved you haven’t drowned, at least not today, then wake up the next morning and tread water as best you can. Again. And again. And again.
Giving up and just sinking is not an option when you’re suddenly the sole provider and role model for your boys. How can they be strong and keep afloat when you’ve resigned to sitting on the ocean floor, waiting for the end?
Praise on how well you have done despite your loss rolls like water off a duck’s back because you know it’s a farce. There’s no high praise in enduring every day, week, month, and year when you know all you did was survive, sometimes despite yourself. No magical formula exists for surviving pain and loss. You just simply do what you must do.
I write about pain because I have seen it in in others, some of which I can offer empathy for, some of which I can’t. From the time he was fourteen to fifteen, Josh lost five people close to him: his great-grandfather, his mother, his aunt, his uncle, and his best friend. His mother and best friend were the most devastating, because he not only lost the person he was closest to, only seven months later, he lost the one person he could talk to about it. Celia was only fourteen when she died, and for Josh, it was like a second tsunami just as he was gulping for breath from the first one.
Then there’s the pain I can’t understand and hope to never experience, and that is the annihilating feeling of losing your child. In December 2007, four days after Christmas and eight years before Carrie and I started dating, she lost her daughter Amanda at 12 years of age. The loss of a child is perhaps the most insidious and long-term pain, for it relegates the survivor to a lifetime of missed milestones and what-ifs. I know every June, when Amanda’s birthday comes around, and every Christmas, Carrie will get lost in thoughts about her daughter. Family gatherings full of chattering and bubbly children opening gifts only hammers home that sharpened stake of grief. I can’t know what she’s feeling. All I can do is hold her and let her know she’s not alone.
But what do we do with pain, once we’ve spotted that feeble pinprick of light at the end of the tunnel and realize the darkness might eventually go away? If you’re an artist, you create. You gather the pain into your arms, caress it, whisper to it, love it, mold it, smooth it, mix it with the happiness you have enjoyed, and create. Because, while you may never be able to truly close the book on that pain, those who experience and read about it can.
A guide for parents of premature babies discusses the experiences of the parents of twenty premature babies and the stories of their ordeals, as well as providing tips on dealing with feelings of anger and depression. 10,000 first printing.
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I'm generally pulled in a million different directions and I wouldn't trade it for the world. Here's a glimpse of my life - hope you enjoy it! And if there's a big lapse between posts, well, that's the way life goes in Amy's world.