A few weeks ago, I received an email from this very nice guy named Mike (and before you get all excited...this is NOT a dating post). He was contacting me to let me know that his wife, Irene, had written a book called Two Chai Day, about her experience dealing with her first/late husband’s battle with lymphoma. He asked if he could send me the book.
Never one to turn down a free book, I happily agreed and sent him my address.
I have to say, the reason I really wanted to read this book was because it was Mike who was contacting me. That right there told me that this woman had made it out of the wild jungle we call grief. Or at least saw enough daylight to remarry a person who not only accepted her late husband into his own life, but is also her champion in getting her story told.
At this stage in the game...I’m always looking for some encouragement that there is life after this.
Now, I will admit to you...I’m not the biggest reader of “grief” books. I try, but most of them are too clinical. They’re too busy telling me what I’m supposed to do. And a lot of them seem to gloss over the story a little bit and don’t dive in deep enough to make me feel less alone.
This is not that book.
Irene McGoldrick is a social worker and mother (among many other things) who found out simultaneously that she was pregnant with her second child...and that her husband was very ill.
Now, some of you may think, “Well, my spouse wasn’t sick...the death was very sudden.” Or, “I don’t have kids, so this book won’t apply to me.”
I can say, with complete confidence, that a piece of this book will apply to just about everyone who has suffered the death of a partner.
The exhaustion. The anger. The fear. The guilt that comes with the occasional good day. The urge to yell at a stranger at the grocery store. The need for intimacy after the death and the confusion that comes with it. Irene tells you like it is and doesn’t leave anything out. I tell you...for those of you who have sent me your own stories to publish and found them hard to write...you will really appreciate the courage it takes to write something like this.
The most amazing part about this book is that Irene’s late husband, Bob, liked to keep journals (I appreciate that because I’m pretty big on that too). Irene wasn’t sure about whether or not she should read them after he was gone (which I admire her for because I think I would have ripped right into them as soon as I got home from the funeral. I’m just nosy like that).
I have to say, Irene...from the reader’s perspective...you made a good call.
To read what was going on with him during all of this turmoil...from being bored with treatment and inactivity to his determination that this was not going to beat him...Bob’s own raw insight into his illness and how it was affecting his wife and family, while also reading Irene’s perspective...let’s just say...they both gave us all a gift.
I mentioned earlier in this post about how a piece of this book will speak to any of us who have lost a significant other. There were many that made me stop and say, “Me too!” But the moment that hit me the hardest and a piece of advice I will never forget is when Irene is trying so hard to be both parents, after Bob has passed.
I remember shortly after my husband died, I tried relentlessly to be just like him. I felt like it was my duty to the kids to keep up with the same things my husband would have. I wanted to know everything he did so that I could teach them the things he knew. Pretty tall order for an English major who was married to a rocket scientist, eh?
I even tried to learn the ins and outs of car maintenance.
(If my dad read that...he’s laughing pretty hard right now.)
At one point, Irene is doing the same thing...she’s determined to be more like Bob. She’s desperately trying to do the things he would have and, in the wake of her grief, she’s getting more and more discouraged.
She goes to her support group and tries to explain why she feels like she’s failing all over the place and the facilitator brings up a really good point: That if she “spends so much time and energy being Bob – who was being Irene?”
The facilitator then drives the point home when she says, “You don’t want your children to lose both of you, do you?”
I actually have that section bookmarked, highlighted, and underlined.
For that piece of wisdom alone (but many more I could mention), I thank you, Irene, for writing this. Not only did I feel less alone...I felt a little less crazy (which if you knew me is a feat in itself). You didn’t leave anything out. You didn’t sugarcoat it. You let me see side of you and Bob that was so extremely personal...I feel like I know you both well and that I’m the better for it.
And to your husband Mike...thanks for sending this. You are the person I keep telling everyone is out there...someone who invites our late spouse into their own life and sees what we still have to offer.
For more information about Irene, visit her website at http://www.ms-dh.com/. You can also catch her widow blog at http://www.mysaintedeadhusband.blogspot.com/. And as if she's not busy enough, you can read her blog about becoming a stepparent at http://www.milwaukeemoms.com/blogs/kitchentable/Plan_B.html.
Irene's book, Two Chai Day, can be found on Amazon, Barnesandnoble.com, and iuniverse.com