I had my first true “triggered” experience the other day. Where I was reading something and it took me right back to a painful memory.
The book was Stoner by John Williams. At the end of the book, he describes in detail the quiet moments of a dying character. It’s a brilliant passage, the last four pages of the book: a profound, moving description of the dying of the light.
I thought of my mother, who died on July 31st at age 95. I felt her last hours, imagined anew that experience, and tears filled my eyes.
And you know what?
I was grateful for that book. For that trigger that came without warning.
The beauty of a novel, just one of the beauties, is that you can stop reading. You can close the book, think your thoughts, manage those emotions on your own terms.
If we have deep feelings about events in our lives, those memories are going to be triggered somewhere, somehow. A cardinal alights on a branch and it reminds you of someone. The smell from a teacup. An empty park bench. There’s no hiding from the triggers, no way to avoid remembering.
John Williams in Stoner wrote an achingly beautiful scene in which the main character passes from the living. Inch by inch, moment by moment. For me, while it brought tears, it also gave solace.
I am heartened and enriched that books can stir us so deeply.