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Loss, Recovery, and New Love
BY E.K. MITCHELL
What if a device could capture everything imaginable about one person. That person dies and you ask it anything … especially the questions you neglected to ask when alive? Jason Chamberlain’s wife, Lisa, dies and a machine, in her voice, sends him on a journey around the world to spread her ashes. Leaving Lisa is a story of loss, transformation, and new love.
Praise for Leaving Lisa
“This book needs to be turned into a movie.”
“Brings us on a journey of overcoming grief and coming to terms with life itself. Brilliantly written and carefully researched, the author draws in the reader and transports them to different lands and cultures.”
“Leaving Lisa opens a couple of windows: to alternative ways of managing grief and thinking about the future of AI. The fast-paced story, all occurring after the death of Lisa, nevertheless relies on her ideas and her voice. Through the magic of computers, Lisa leads the widowed Jason on a journey of understanding and forgiveness.”
“The plot captured me from the beginning to the end. A powerful story of loss and grief, enough to cause an emotional response many times.”
Lisa and I had a good life together. It wasn’t perfect. Perhaps lives with few expectations seem that way. We filled our lives with aspirations, most of them realized. But with Lisa gone, mine was a life suspended. I was numb.
I know I spent too much time on the company I ran. Taking an idea and growing it into a groundbreaking business consumed me. When the right offer was eventually made, I sold the business. My partners and I did well. Plenty of money, so at age fifty, I never had to work again. Lisa and I could travel to all those places we dreamed about.
A car crash occurs in a brief second. The aftermath lasts forever. That brief second played an endless loop in memory. Lisa died, and part of me did as well.
We held the funeral three days after Lisa’s death. I had nasty bruises from the accident. Physically, I had pain. Mentally, I had lost all feeling. Emotional numbness set in. Most of our friends were at the funeral, as were many of Lisa’s colleagues and patients, most of whom I never met before. Strangers telling me how much Lisa meant to them was disorienting, an introduction to Lisa’s other life, coming much too late.
There was no body on display. Lisa wanted cremation. We both joked about setting our bodies ablaze on a funeral pyre floating down the Ganges. The cremation was less involved than that romantic invention of ours. Ashes were an abstraction of Lisa. What was I to do with them? We never discussed that detail. They remained in a small jar at home. How could a person who filled a house with her presence be reduced to such a ridiculous confinement?
“So sorry for your loss.” “She was a special person.” Condolences repeated in hushed tones. Though redundant, each person spoke from the heart. “Yes, she was special,” I replied, more than once. Repeating it reinforced the memory of her. Lisa was indeed special.
Why did I kill her?
No indictment was made. No police officer stood at the door ready to take me in. I wish one had been. Punish me! Perhaps that would wipe away this guilt. There was one exception to those who held me unaccountable. It was Madeline, our daughter. She was the teen who fought constantly with her mother and then the young adult who rejected her every way she could. She knew I killed her mother. I saw it in her eyes. Was her mother snatched away from her before they could reconcile?
I was lost in my thoughts and numb to everyone’s condolences when Emil Ericsson, a close colleague of Lisa’s, approached me. I knew him casually. He and his wife Mary had been to our home, but they were not in our close circle of friends. However, Lisa worked with Emil every day.
“Jason,” Emil uttered with the somber countenance shared by others that day.
“Hello, Emil.” I noticed Mary remained across the room. Emil took me aside for a private conversation.
“Could I ask you something?” he said.
“Did Lisa leave you with instructions?”
“I don’t mean a will. You probably know what that says. I mean instructions about what to do after her death?”
“I’m not sure what you mean.”
“Look,” said Emil. “I know you have a lot on your mind, but when you have a chance, let’s meet.” He handed me his card. “I have something that might help.”
With that, Emil gave me a firm handshake, a sincere look, and walked away to rejoin his wife. I put Emil’s card in my pocket and continued with the ceremony of death.
At the funeral, people surrounded me. After the funeral, when my driver let me out at my house, I was alone. I surveyed the place as though for the first time, looking up the brick walk to our ‘neo-castle.’ Our home was a much-too-big house, four levels with an elevator, in McLean, Virginia, close to my office in Tyson’s Corner. It was Lisa who had the long commute. She worked at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda. The drive across the river around the western suburbs of Washington, DC, was always unpredictable, but she seldom had to face rush hour. She was in early and late returning. Both of us were morning people, although her morning two-mile run was too much for me. I feared for her in the early darkness of winter when she ran winding country roads with narrow shoulders and blind curves. But when she returned glowing, if breathless, I saw it was something she needed.
Stepping into the foyer, I remember the receptions held here, usually for my business. We could hold a hundred people with space left over. Now the space swallowed me. I headed to the basement. The thing I needed most at that moment was there, the bar. The room was large, with lots of chairs, a pool table, and several flat-screen TVs. Lisa joked we had a sports bar and should open it for business. We built it to handle libations for the masses. Behind the bar was a wine closet holding five-hundred bottles of wine. I knew little about wine. We hired someone to stock it. No matter. It was the liquor I needed. I poured myself an ample glass of scotch and walked over to the sliding glass door to the pool.
Looking over the pool with the daylight fading, I noticed the picture of Lisa to my left on a small table. It was her college photo. Lisa was fond of putting pictures of me and her about the house chronicling our years together. I wasn’t sure I wanted those memories lurking around every corner. But for now, I studied the sunset and remembered the first time I saw her.
E.K. Mitchell is the pen name of Jackson Coppley, a renowned author of action-adventure novels that blend technology and human behavior. He is experienced in communications and technology, having launched “a revolutionary software program” during the rise of personal computing. His knowledge of other cultures, based on his world travels, helps him understand cultural nuances and plays a role in his stories. This understanding of technology and human behavior brings to his writing a glimpse of what is yet to come.
Jackson Coppley (AKA E.K. Mitchell) travels the world and writes about what he sees in his novels such as Leaving Lisa (Costa Rica, Vietnam, Italy). Recently he traveled to Rio for Carnival. See the video he shot of the festivities.
Links to E.K.’s websites, blogs, books, #ad etc.:
Thanks, E.K., for sharing your books with us!
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