forest in autumn

Writing an Epilogue

I’m supposed to be writing an epilogue. But this little essay is a tougher task than I imagined. After all, I wrote the book (an 87,000-word first draft, no less) in 10 months. How hard could it really be?

Really hard.

I always knew I’d want to write an epilogue for Run to the Light, the memoir I penned as a love letter to my little sister. I thought readers would want to know what happened to Taylor, already in the autumn of her life by the final chapter. And when I finished the manuscript, I figured that with any luck, the book would hit shelves a few short years after the final scene. (I underestimated, but only by a little. Bink Books will publish Run to the Light exactly five years after the events of that final chapter. A split second for a first-time author, yet an eternity for a family fighting Batten disease.)

Writer’s Digest says there are basically six reasons to write an epilogue:

  1. Wrap up story events after a traumatic or violent climax.
  2. Highlight consequences and results of story events.
  3. Provide information that wasn’t covered in the climax.
  4. Suggest the future for the protagonist and other characters.
  5. Make the story seem realistic.
  6. Provide data on a large cast of characters.

Viewed through this lens, writing my epilogue should be easy. More stuff happened. This might happen next. The end.

I think the real reason this tiny assignment is so tough is that I don’t know how to talk about my sister in an essay that most people will read 10 months later. What will life look like once we reach the next bend in the road? How quickly will we get there? As I write, should I refer to Taylor in the present tense or past tense?

I’m struggling to write an epilogue because my sister is dying and I’ve had 11 years to get used to the idea and I’m still not comfortable with it and I can’t help her and I don’t know what to do. 

But I’ve always contended that Run to the Light isn’t a sad story, even when it made my beta readers cry. Yes, the book is about loss. But it’s also about what it means to believe. That we can turn tragedy into opportunity. That overcoming obstacles is mostly about having the courage to look at them from a different perspective. Now, more than ever, we all need to embrace that kind of attitude, whether or not we’re contending with a rare brain disease that kills kids.

Sometimes, when I’m having a rough day, I think that after my sister is gone (maybe after but likely before people read Run to the Light), I’ll want to pick up my life and move it somewhere far away from home.

But I know better than to believe that I can run away from my own agony. That kind of pain lives not in a physical location but in the heart and the mind and the soul.

Here’s the thing: I’ll survive, though she won’t. As much pain as I have to pack into a thousand-word epilogue, I still know with every fiber in my body that Run to the Light is a hopeful story. I believe we’ll find a lot of good around that bend in the road. And I’ll always contend that a better life for children like my sister is a future worth fighting for.

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