The years went by. And then, out of the blue, the doctor called me again and this time he was willing to tell me what had really happened to my mother, his patient, this nineteen year old girl. He laid it out for me. He began with these words-- "I could have saved her life." He had diagnosed her with preeclampsia in the fourth month. And he told her that if her condition worsened he would have to take her baby in order to save her life. She was furious with him.
But in the sixth month when she was very sick, she returned to him and agreed to let him take her baby. He was just going to induce labor. Everyone in town would think she had miscarried. It was a Sunday morning. He was examining her with his stethoscope before the procedure and he heard two hearts beating. Not one. When he told her that she was carrying twins, she refused to let him continue. He said to me, "I sent her home to die. I knew that she would not make it." She carried her babies to full term. He delivered her twins at three in the morning on August 11. Sixteen days later, she died. Right to the end, she believed she would pull through. And she made her doctor promise never to tell anyone what had transpired because she didn't want her twin sons to grow up knowing they had caused her death. She didn't want her husband to know because she was afraid that he would not be able to be a good father if he knew that we had caused her death and that she had chosen us over him.
It was 2007 when I finally knew the whole story. I began then to write a screenplay, a movie that would tell the whole story. I have worked on that screenplay ever since. And on the last night of my father's life, I was alone with him for hours and I told him the whole truth so that he would finally know why he had lost this girl he loved. I was able to tell him before he left this world.
JB: How did knowing the true story help you? As a reader, it's difficult to digest. I can only imagine what it might have been like for you. Did it give you closure with your dad?
DS: In a way, I felt like I had fulfilled my destiny as a son, to finally have learned how my mother died and to be able to tell my father so that he finally knew after fifty years. But still, my responsibility as a writer is to carry the whole story, the true story out into the world. And so, until the movie is finally made, I will not be at peace.
JB: What's happening with the movie? You undertook writing the screenplay, correct? Did you have any experience to do that? It's not like writing a book, fiction or nonfiction, from what I understand.
DS: In 2001, Hallmark Hall Of Fame bought the film rights to my novel, Fallen Angel. I had never written a screenplay before but I insisted on writing that script so I could learn to one day write the script for my mother's movie. I locked myself in my room for about seven months and studied all the great scripts. That was how I learned. A screenplay in its finished form is around 100 pages. I wrote 3,762 pages before I finally finished my mother's script which I am calling A Way Home. Right now, it is with Joely Richardson who starred in my movie, Fallen Angel. She has a 20 year old daughter who is just beginning her acting career and who would play Peggy. So I am hoping Joely and her daughter will "attach themselves" to my script so we can then seek the financing to make the movie independently.
Because my mother died from preeclampsia, and because that condition is still the leading cause of death among pregnant women and their babies, I am committed to sharing profits from the movie with the University of Chicago Lying In Hospital's research center into preeclampsia.