I’m writing about the process my family underwent in dealing with my grandma’s terminal cancer diagnosis. My project is going to end up with a policy-change orientation, advocating for the legalization (or at least decriminalization) of physician-assisted suicide for patients with no other options, but will mostly take the form of a personal essay from my perspective as a seven-year-old. My worries with this are twofold: I’m not sure how many of the “memories” that I have of this period are real and I don’t want to whore out my grandmother in some heartless politically motivated sob story.
Naturally this was an unpleasant time during which I and my family did unpleasant things, but I’m running into an issue concerning a fear of gossip. I feel out of place revealing the lowest of the lows which my family (my mother in particular) reached. I feel like I’m instrumentalizing something which should be kept private. My fear keeps taking the form of the following question:
“WHAT IF MY FAMILY READS THIS SHIT?”
Would they approve of my decision not only to share the ugly details of my grandmother’s slow and miserable death, but also to use that as a means to push an agenda? I feel dirty just using the word agenda.
This is a somewhat familiar issue. Last year I took a 325 personal essay class aiming to use it as a written therapy session. I think every essay (with the exception of one) I wrote was about a spectacularly failed relationship. (The other one was about a house where drugs were sold.) I never felt nearly as uncomfortable airing my dirty laundry in those essays as I do with this one. Maybe it was because I was entirely without a chance of redemption with the women whom I wrote about. I knew they would never read what I wrote anyway. I can’t quite get over that hump this time. How do I do what I want to do? At the very least, how can I rationalize exploiting the death of a person I loved?