A "Death" in the Family

OK – I missed a week, but I had a reason; I lost my hard drive. (I know, not a child, not a leg, not a house – just a hard drive) This shouldn’t be a major event, but I am numb with mourning.  Yes, I had backed everything up, but as Murphy so succinctly says, “If anything can go wrong, it will.” 

My drive started clicking – which they aren’t supposed to do.  Then it seized up, the mail program caught in mid-flight from the loading dock.  After my MacBook came back from the hospital, I was amazed at its recovery.  I reinstalled program after program.  I tried out new ones.  I celebrated the fact that all the flotsam and jetsam of a 5-year-old hard drive had scrubbed itself sterile.  Clean slate, new start, all that jazz.  I felt a little shaky, but I had my back-ups to hold onto and I was ready to go. 

Finally, the time arrived to put it all together again.  I got the external hard drive out of the safe and hooked it up. Its little orange icon obediently appeared on my screen and I took a deep breath.  It was going to be no easy task to import, sort and reorganize 5 years worth of a teacher/Bible student/writer’s documents. The drive held two-thirds of a novel I’ve been working on, several hundred poems, essays, short stories, Power Point presentations, entire units of study.  It held curricula for two college classes, letters, eulogies, and hundreds of Bible study lessons, all my e-mail contacts – well, I could go on and on, but the job that lay before me was a doozey.  It was also an opportunity to weed out piles of useless material; I’d put off doing that because the piles loomed over me like a range of mountains.  Now was the time to haul out the pickaxe and get to work. 

I double-clicked on the icon.  A new window appeared on cue.  I began scrolling down through the listed files; they rolled past my searching eyes -- .jpg, .jpg, .jpg, .jpg – and on and on and on.  Hundreds and hundreds of photographs.  Now and then a file that contained sound effects – where did those come from? – but no document files, no music files.  I felt my stomach scrunch up.  Surely there’s just something I don’t know about doing this. 

That’s a good theory – I’ve learned most of what I know about the cyber-world by guess and by golly; I’m too old to have been born knowing code.  My sweet, forgiving Mac gave me lots of elbow room, students pitched in to help me figure things out, my husband and my super, computer-savvy son untangled my messes.  Little by little I learned.  I knew to use the “search” slot on the finder window.  No results.  I tried different configurations. Nada. I made sure all my software was ready and usable. Nothing changed – just photos.

Finally, with my heart in my throat, I called in reinforcements.  My husband and his best friend came to my rescue, only they couldn’t slay the dragon, either.  I called my son – he suggested taking the old drive to a data-retrieval expert – more on that later.  I called the repair folk and they left one of those we-know-you’re-an-idiot messages – “Plug in the drive, click on the icon….” 

So far, four days later, no one’s been able to find anything but photos on that drive.  Tom found a few important things on his computer, but most of my last five years is gone.  I just got an estimate from a company that can for between $400 and $1000 recover some of my files.  Maybe.  They’ll only charge me if they can restore some of it, so it’s not a crap-shoot, but here’s the kicker – if they find something, then I have to decide what’s it’s worth to me to get it back.  Worth, in the $ sense of the word.  What’s the monetary value of an unfinished novel to an aging woman living off ever-dwindling mutual funds?  Per poem, what is each piece worth – in dollars and cents?  Gees.  I have never thought of my writing that way – which maybe is a flaw I need to correct.  I can bet that paying someone $1000 to retrieve my book may be adequate motivation to finish it. 

Hmm. But here’s another rub. Things happen for a reason – God does not play games with His people and He is all knowing, all-caring, and great enough to actually have a plan for a nobody like me.  If five years of writing is gone, what’s the point?  How am I to read this?

  • Am I to remember Job?  “The Lord gives, the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:22) Am I to assume that one way or another what I’ve had will be replaced and better than it was before?   That seems possible.  He can feed me ideas.  He always has. Perhaps this perverse external drive will eventually cough up the goods. 
  • Or – am I writing the wrong things? Spending too much time at it? Putting too much emphasis on it?  I think of Matthew 6:21, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Hmmm… 

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I’ll keep writing until I can figure it out.  Maybe there’s another horse to ride whose hooves I haven’t heard yet.  But I know now what writing means to me. I know that in some way creating that body of thought expanded my heart, pulled me out into the world, and stretched my existence.   When I sat staring at that unhelpful screen full of .jpg files, it all snapped back into an emptiness I hadn’t felt for many years.  

------ But I can’t mourn for long – I have a lot of new writing to do.