|Forgetful (M.A. Reilly, 2010)|
...Gradually, you will learn acquaintance
With the invisible form of your departed...
- John O’Donohue
A woman. A new widow.
I am reading her like a movie playing slowly,
remembering as I read and nodding alongside her starts and stops.
I know her words like I know my own hands.
I amassed so many books in the months following Rob's death and read them all in a gulp. I was mad reading, trying to find a shore.
A spit of ground to stand on.
Something to make the unfamiliar waves of widowhood more familiar.
I was so fucking lost.
Some books I best remember, like Paul Kalanithi's When Breath Becomes Air. I read this while Rob was at home dying.
At night as my husband slept fitfully, I read.
Most days he was mute and I read.
Kalanithi's words spoke to me--revealed the shrouded silence of my husband as he died.
In the months following Rob's death, I found myself trying to make Spicy Red Lentil and Tomato Curry--Elizabeth Alexander's husband's recipe that she included in her stirring memoir The Light of the World: A Memoir. It is a recounting of her young husband's sudden death and their life together.
It is painful as it is whole.
And then there was C.S. Lewis' A Grief Observed.
I made images with his words. I painted and sketched.
His words were truths I knew in my bones.
Like one reads a treasure map, I studied these books.
I read them like a mad woman seeking a trail of necessity.
I wanted direction, knowledge,
In those early days the world is mostly unformed.
I have no recipes to pass along here.
No wisdom either.
There are few words I know and none of them heal.
What I do have--is a list.
A list of 38 books that helped me find confidence in words once again.
Sometimes, friends it is that simple.
Reading offered a moment of grace.
Here's the list (imperfect at that):
- What the Living Do: Poems (Marie Howe)
- The Afterlife (not sure of the author. I came home to find this waiting for me from a friend)
- Daily Meditation book: Healing After Loss
- The Cure for Sorrow: A Book of Blessings for Times of Grief (Jan Richardson)
- The Year of Magical Thinking (Joan Didion)
- Love and Living (Thomas Merton)
- Hello from Heaven (Bill Guggenheim)
- The Inner Voice of Love (Henri Nouwen)
- World Made and Unmade (Jane Mead)
- A Grief Observed (C.S. Lewis I read this over and over..)
- When Husbands Die (Shirley McNally)
- The Light of the World: A Memoir (Elizabeth Alexander)
- Ambiguous Loss: Learning to Live with Unresolved Grief (Pauline Boss)
- Widow to Widow (Genevieve Ginsburg)
- The Other Side of Sadness (George Bonanno)
- The Gene: An Intimate History (Siddgarta Mukherjee)
- Heartbroken: Healing from the Loss (Gary Roe)
- I'm Grieving as Fast as I Can (Linda Feinberg)
- On Grief and Grieving (Elisabeth Kubler-Ross)
- The Cancer Journals (Audre Lorde)
- Mortality (Christopher Hitchens)
- When Breath Becomes Air (Paul Kalanithi)
- Second Firsts: Live, Laugh and Love Again (Christina Rasmussen)
- Getting to the Other Side of Grief (Susan J. Zonnebelt-Smeenge)
- Gabriel: A Poem (E.D. Hirsch)
- Final Payment (Mary Gordon)
- H is for Hawk (Helen Macdonald)
- Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope (Anne Lamont)
- Being Mortal (Atul Gawande)
- Radical Remissions: Surviving Cancer Against All Odds (Kelly A. Turner)
- Echoes of Memory (John O'Donohue)
- Seven Choices: Finding Daylight After Loss Shatters Your World
- New and Selected Poems, Volume I (Mary Oliver)
- Thirst (Mary Oliver)
- The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson
- Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words (David Whyte)
- Death's Door: Modern Dying and the Ways We Grieve (Sandra Gilbert)
- Patrimony (Philip Roth)