As you read each of the three stories I have posted so far, you might be wondering how I chose which parts of each individual story to tell. While I have some information to go off of, there are often holes in each story and I just sort of fill in the blanks. However, considering that many of these stories cross decades and decades of time, I do have to choose specific parts to tell.
For Lawrence, there wasn’t much remarkable in his suitcase for me to go off of. He had the case itself, a pair of dress shoes, two shaving mugs, two shaving brushes, and a pair of suspenders. What struck me about his story was his important role as the caretaker of the cemetery at Willard. He took this role very seriously by all accounts and it was something that fascinated me. Thus, I decided to tell the story of him digging one grave as he reflects on his life. Miss Jane is a fictitious character. I just imagined that as he dug graves, he might have thought about each individual if he knew who they were
I chose to tell Lawrence’s story towards the end of his life because I thought it was remarkable that he took care of the cemetery almost until his death. After his passing, it seems that no one else took over his important role, thus the cemetery’s current state today. Lawrence was a quiet person according to the records, but I imagined that he thought about a lot of things as he was going about his work.
Rodrigo had more of an interesting life before he entered Willard. Therefore, I chose to tell his story through the admission process. He did, indeed, go to court with his employer. He was a member of the Filipino-American movement to gain independence for the Philippines. He had at one time thought about becoming a member of the clergy. His family had converted to Protestantism.
I wondered what am immigrant like Rodrigo would think about as he stood before a judge in a courtroom with his sanity in question. He had lots of pictures, letters, newsletters, magazines, and cards in his suitcase, along with some religious materials. The judge’s name is made up, but the employer’s name is what was in the book I am using as reference material. Sometimes, it gets difficult for me to even see where the truth ends and fiction begins.
Theresa’s story, the darkest of the three posted so far, is based on a particular incident that took place at Willard. At one time, she did indeed attack two female attendants. The scene with her waking up in restraints may or may not have happened. The male attendant is fictional. The reasons for her attacking the attendants was fictional. According to the book, her reasons for the attack are unknown. However, as the authors note, such attacks are rare and are not usually unprovoked. That gave my imagination cause to wonder what would have provoked her.
Theresa had actually been a nun and did actually regress at times during her stay at Willard. It was not unusual for her to think herself a mere child. Her suitcase contained many letters, photos, prayer books, and other religious memorabilia. I chose to focus on this incident because I thought it was significant to describing her life at Willard. She did not just adjust to institutionalization as Lawrence and Rodrigo seemed to. She spent time on and off the more secure wards.
I hope this helps you see how I take factual information and choose what to write about. All of the stories are interesting to me in many ways. Picking and choosing what to tell has been the hard part. As you will see in the next story I post, specific incidents can give me the most fodder for fiction. However, even vague details, such as Lawrence’s life as a gravedigger can spawn imaginative thoughts.
I confess to being a bit stuck on the fifth story. I have read the story and taken notes but have not yet chosen where to begin or which details to include. I will keep you posted on my struggles and (hopefully) successes.Thanks for reading. As always, leave comments of any kind regarding what you think of my writing thus far. I will gladly read them and take them to heart. Let me know if you would like me to reciprocate and read something of yours. I will gladly do that, too.