Paul Collins

Date of Award

Spring 4-24-2012

Document Type

Closed Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) in Creative Writing



Physical Description

1 online resource (iii, 137 pages)


Grief -- Personal narratives, Alcoholism -- Personal narratives, Drug addiction -- Personal narratives, Death -- Psychological aspects -- Personal narratives




Where We Belong is more than a memoir. It is a love story about the untimely death of the oldest of five daughters born to a prominent New Haven, Connecticut family. It is also a tale of hubris, rage and frustration, a Greek tragedy about a man's life as re-examined through the lens of the two weeks his wife spent dying, a tale in which chronic illness and good intentions ensure the death of a loving wife, artist and mother. The journey on which her husband takes the reader explores a health care system oblivious to her plight, her family's unwitting complicity and a 12-step mythology that unfolds while he, her six weeping children and her aging mother helplessly look on. The author endures an agony that dwarfs incentives to lie, learning that people lie out of fear, and genuine grief supplants fear with the stark reality of what we fear most: death. Where We Belong gives voice to the internal dialogue the author encounters when reexamining not just memories, but the accoutrements of memory, as well. It is a voice that addresses his own grandiosity, sentimentalism and self-pity in the face of his wife's death, in addition to those details, circumstances and impressions that speak to the arrogance he brought to the task of being all he thought she and her six children needed him to be. He concludes the task was well beyond him, a realization evoked by the gut wrenching decision to literally "pull the plug" on this heartbreaking tale of reconstituted hope and great promise reduced to rubble by chronic illness, alcoholism, drug addiction and death. Born is the lesson that when we grieve, we are free to be ourselves. When we are free to be ourselves, we are free to love again.


This thesis is only available to student, staff and faculty at Portland State University.

Persistent Identifier