A writer dies, her book is not done, her husband writes the final chapter

Tim Porter
4 min readFeb 21, 2022

There is no more tenuous concept than time. Hours, days and years are inventions of man, an application of accounting and order to a life whose beginning is mysterious but whose conclusion is both clear and capricious.

Time, as a mechanism, constructs a façade of stability behind which extends a void that defies definition. What we call “today” is a random assortment of instances, each so infinitesimally transitory that we can neither immerse ourselves in them nor extract from them any indelible depth of experience. Tomorrow is perpetually beyond reach, unattainable, because it exists only in our heads. As soon as the rising sun cracks the horizon, tomorrow disappears under the onslaught of today. Our brains are wired for now; every instant of consciousness occurs today.

What remains is the past, a grand mausoleum of dismembered memories. This unkempt charnel house of fading images, distant conversations, and joys and pains exaggerated or tempered by time tempts examination, especially by writers and others who seek to make sense in their lives. But the past is not a single, definable entity of what was. The past consists of only what we remember, and even that is unique in quantity and clarity for each of us.

“The unexamined life is not worth living,” said the Greek. But what of the unexamined past? Should it be disinterred?


When Mary Ann Hogan and I met we were journalists, she a reporter for a big newspaper, and I the editor of a smaller one. I was arrogant, aggressive, and inflated with self-worth; she was everything that was the opposite: sweet, lovely, and brimming with talent.

I fell for her at once, charmed by her Irish eyes, galactic smile, and dulcet ways. But she was taken, by a lucky fellow I’d just hired, Eric Newton. So, I settled for friendship, and we three formed a youthful bond that endured as we aged.

Mary Ann died in 2019, claimed by rampaging cells. Dying is an untidy process that always leaves something — or much — undone. When the lymphoma took Mary Ann, she hadn’t yet finished the book that was to be the culmination of her life’s work, a memoir about losing and finding herself, about leaving and returning home, and about…

Tim Porter

I'm a photographer and a writer.