How does a far-away, distant person, one you’ve never met, touch your heart in such a way that in the millisecond it takes to read he has died, tears spill over, instantly dotting your cheeks?
My favorite-favorite author died today. Gabriel Garcia Marquez was more than the Father of Magical Realism, he was magic.
To him she seemed so beautiful, so seductive, so different from ordinary people, that he could not understand why no one was as disturbed as he by the clicking of her heels on the paving stones, why no one else’s heart was wild with the breeze stirred by the sighs of her veils, why everyone did not go mad with the movements of her braid, the flight of her hands, the gold of her laughter. He had not missed a single one of her gestures, not one of the indications of her character, but he did not dare approach her for fear of destroying the spell.” ~ Love in the Time of Cholera
You tell me he’s not magic.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s words have a magical effect. And many years ago, he received some words during a dinner party that worked magic on him. Here is the full story, taken from my book, Love, Trust & Pixie Dust:
A Hole (Whole) In My Heart
Chances are, if you are reading this book, you’re of an age where you’ve experienced heartache. The feelings range from a piercing stab in your heart to a dull murmur that lingers just below the surface of your skin. No matter the intensity or range of the feelings, I believe it’s safe to say, we all have experienced what feels like a hole in our heart.
The hole…what is that? For me, I believe the hole is a feeling of loss.
While talking to a girlfriend about this very topic, what a hole in your heart feels like, she agreed that it indeed does feel like a loss, a loss of something dear. At this point, I’m guessing you may be relating a hole in your heart, and the subsequent feeling of loss, to romantic love or perhaps the loss of a loved one who has passed away. To be honest, while in this conversation with my friend, I was too. Until my friend reminded me of an excerpt from a book I copied and mailed to her over ten years ago. The author had written about his addiction to cigarettes. My friend had been a long-time smoker and had tried to quit, “too many times to count,” she admitted. She paralleled the feeling of losing something dear and feeling a hole in her heart to quitting smoking.
Smoking? Yes. I was intrigued. Nice twist—my attention was piqued, which means I was poised to learn.
Going back in time ten years, what I sent my friend was from the book I was reading at the time, Living to Tell the Tale, the first volume of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s autobiography. His words made such sense to me, and I thought they might speak to her, too.
Here is the excerpt I mailed my friend:
“Because of the pneumonia I was forbidden to smoke, but I smoked in the bathroom as if hiding from myself. The doctor knew and spoke to me with real seriousness, but I could not obey him. Already in Sucre, as I tried to read without pause the books I had received, I chain-smoked until I could not bear it, and the more I tried to quit the more I smoked. I smoked four packs a day, I would interrupt meals to smoke, and I burned the sheets because I fell asleep holding a lit cigarette. The fear of death would wake me at any hour of the night, and only by smoking could I endure it, until I decided I would rather die than stop smoking.
“More than twenty years later, when I was married and had children, I was still smoking. A doctor who saw my lungs on the screen told me in horror that in two or three years I would not be able to breathe. Terrified, I reached the extreme of sitting for hours and hours without doing anything because I could not read, or listen to music, or talk to friends or enemies without smoking. One night, during a casual supper in Barcelona, a friend who was a psychiatrist explained to the others that tobacco was perhaps the most difficult addiction to break. I dared ask him what the fundamental reason was, and his reply had a chilling simplicity:
“‘Because for you, quitting smoking would be like killing someone you love.’
“It was a sudden burst of clairvoyance. I never knew why and did not want to know, but I put out the cigarette I had just lit in the ashtray, and with no anxiety or regret I never smoked another one again in my life.” ~ Gabriel Garcia Marquez
A decade later, my friend still remembered these words. When she spoke of it, she said that quitting smoking feels like losing her best friend. She would be killing someone she loves. The hole in her heart would feel real and the loss immense. She was not ready to make that surrender.
As Emerson said, “Whenever you meet anyone, remember they are going through a great war.” A war where loss is felt. Whether it’s the loss of a lover, a parent, a beloved dog, or a habit you’ve become addicted to, there is real loss there. And in many cases, your heart may feel like it has a gaping hole.
But within that hole, slowly, very slowly, as the ends close and merge from within, the hole you once felt in your heart begins to feel whole again. The key is from within. Love yourself from within. Trust yourself from within. Know you are enough, exactly the way you are. Believe it.
And in time, the hole will turn whole again.
(end excerpt from Love, Trust, & Pixie Dust)
As I read the announcement of Marquez’s death, tears did spill onto my cheeks; I felt real loss. There was a hole in my heart—a tender hole for the first author who gave me the gift of experiencing what if feels like to fall in love with literature, to fall in love with the art I adore: the art of words, the art of story-telling.
I am no Gabriel Garcia Marquez; he has no equal in my book. But I am a writer who loves her craft. And many of you reading this post are damn good writers, too. Kris Y., start your blog, be a writer, touch hearts. Bob S., come on, dude—publish your book already! Bill A., never stop doing what you do. Never.
Be the writer, mother, teacher who touches hearts. Be bold, one who is capable of leaving and enduring a hole in the heart. Live life fully.
Of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said today, “Such giants never die.”
Amen to that. May you rest in peace, Señor Márquez.