‘If You Were Here’ author shines light on the happiness of marriage, and the changes that come when a spouse passes away

Local author Cathy Bendle will give a reading from her new memoir, ‘If You Were Here’, at the John M. Cuelenaere Public Library on Tuesday, Sept. 26.

Prince Albert author Cathy Bendle isn’t shy about writing, but sharing the contents of her latest work is still a bit daunting.

Bendle will be at the John M. Cuelenaere Public Library on Tuesday giving a reading from ‘If You Were Here’, her latest work. The memoir focuses on the 30-plus years Bendle spent with her husband, Cecil, and how her life changed when he passed away unexpectedly one month after their wedding anniversary in 2019.

“I think everybody grieves differently,” Bendle said during a phone interview on Monday. “The way you lose someone is different for everybody, but every now and then you run into somebody who you can relate to with how they lost someone. I think it’s important to share just because it’s good to know somebody else has felt that.”

Bendle originally started writing stories about her marriage during sessions with her local poetry group. She began writing in December 2022 and finished a few months later.

‘If You Were Here’ contains a variety of family stories, like recollections about how Cecil would get their kids out of bed to watch meteors at night, along with reflections on what it’s like to lose someone.

It was a daunting task for Bendle, especially after she stopped writing for herself, and started writing with a book in mind.

“I’m a writhing mass of insecurity just like everybody else in the world,” she said with a chuckle. “Partially it’s my insecurities. They’re big, but also because I felt kind of exposed. I tend to like being the kind of person who appears to have her crap together, and this is saying, ‘it’s just something that’s hard to adapt to when I’ve had three years to adapt to it now.’”

Bendle, like her husband, is a storyteller at heart, but she needed some help to finish the book. She credits local writer-in-residence Lynda Monahan for helping push her across the finish line.

Without Monahan’s support, Bendle said, there wouldn’t be a memoir to read from.

“She is the godmother of Prince Albert writers,” Bendle said. “She just kept giving me encouragement, and offering to read it over and giving me suggestions on don’t change this, do think about that, and she does that for so many people.”

Bendle hopes readers and listeners will enjoy the stories she created with Cecil during three decades of marriage. She also hopes it will help her transition to a different time in her life.

This memoir, she said, is a way of remembering her husband, and the memories they created.

“We were pretty tight for 33 years,” she said. “We did a lot of stuff together, and not having him there just feels weird.”

Cathy Bendle will be reading from ‘If You Were Here’ on Tuesday at the John M. Cuelenaere Public Library. The event starts at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 26. Signed copies will be available for purchase. Funding for the reading is provided by the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild.