Laughing Into the Camera
Written by
Tess Hardwick
March 2011
Written by
Tess Hardwick
March 2011

It occurred to me the other day that my three major writings, a full-length play called “My Lady’s Hand”, a novel “Riversong”, and my current manuscript titled, “Duet For Three Hands” are all about the same thing.  A devastating tragedy occurs, leaving my main characters hopeless, lost, terribly sad and with no choice but to start again, which they do.

One doesn’t have to spend too much time with a therapist to understand why.

It was the mid-nineties.  My mother was fifty, at the beginning of a new era, one without children, a time for her to follow unfinished ambitions and dreams.  She was an active, vibrant woman, an accomplished watercolorist and owner of a small tax business. Coming home from her office one hot summer evening she was in an automobile accident.  Over the phone in the early morning hours my phone rang in a shrill warning, that phone call you never want to receive.  It was my father, his voice broken.  Steal yourself, he said, or I won’t be able to tell you this.  It was a spinal cord injury.  Paralysis from the waist down.  I remember thinking on the plane home to see her, she still has her hands.  She can still paint. But what about the rest of it?  What about the rest of her life?

A year later, on another hot summer day, my brother and his wife lost their infant son in delivery. I went to Philadelphia to help them bury him.  It was a bad week in a year full of them.  A week I remember in vivid images too painful to write about except in the confines of my journal.  Towards the end of that week I was on the phone with my boyfriend, a man I desperately loved.  I said to him, coming home to you is the only thing that’s getting me through this.  I cringe, now, thinking of the silence on the other end of the phone.

A week later, he ended it.  To me it was abrupt.  To him it was not.  I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, he said.  I was, quite literally, heartbroken.  I thought I might never laugh again, let alone love again.  I remember waking every morning, thinking, I cannot figure out the point of anything.  I couldn’t see the light, couldn’t see through it.

But we all went on.  My mother, the toughest woman in the world, lived to paint again.  My brother and his wife had another baby, a beautiful boy they named Liam, that didn’t replace their lost son but that they loved like we all love our children, without question, unconditionally, with every molecule of our being.  My mother planted a memorial flowerbed in her garden, all flowers that bloom in July, the month of baby Miles’ birth.  I lived to love again, a good man who loves me so fiercely I often wonder if I’m worthy.

So it is no wonder that all these things have formed the writer I am today.  All my books will be about the same thing, I can tell you that.  They will all be about the strength of spirit that moves you beyond your circumstance, beyond what you think you can endure.

There is a photo hanging in my brother’s house.  It is of me in my wedding dress kneeling next to a three year old Liam.  We’re both laughing into the camera.


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  • Tess Hardwick

    Thank you, Cynthia!  So sweet of you to read and comment.

  • CeCe Harbor

    This is powerful, Tess.