At the end of September of 2010, our oldest son Matthew phoned us from his university up in Bellingham to say that he had been quite sick and had been to the emergency room twice. They had ruled out various things, but he still wasn't feeling well. We decided to go up and get him, and thus began the most difficult three weeks of our lives. What initially masked itself as a severe case of pneumonia, was in fact a virulent form of strep that attacked his bi-cuspid aortic heart valve, which necessitated valve replacement surgery. But when they actually went in, they found the damage was far more extensive than they thought. And while Matthew survived the surgery (mostly due to his youth), he never regained consciousness. He spent the last week of his life in a coma, before he died on October 22.
In closing out The Book Nosher, I wanted to have my final post be about a special book. The book I have chosen to write about is a picture book that is for both adults and children. It was given to me by a dear friend who has been a NICU nurse for the last 30 years, in the same hospital that Matthew died. She deals with life and death situations on a day to day basis. Tear Soup by Pat Schwiebert and Chuck DeKlyen deals with the subject of grief in a way that few "adult" books do. It's a wise book that gently explains how different people grieve in different ways.
In the story, Grandy has lost someone (unnamed) very dear to her and sets about preparing tear soup. "Grandy winced when she took a sip of the broth. All she could taste was salt from her teardrops. It tasted bitter, but she knew this was where she had to start." The book goes on as Grandy goes through the difficult stages of grief, always at her own pace, not someone else's. For me, this book summed up so many of the complex feelings that surround grief. It spoke to me when I first read it many months ago, and it continues to speak to me now. While I don't think this is a book for very young children, I do think that school-aged children would find it very helpful if dealing with a significant loss. The pictures are quite lovely, and the words very meaningful. Here's a sample from the last page as Grandy explains what she's learned from making her tear soup:
"I've learned that grief, like a pot of soup, changes the longer it simmers and the more things you put into it. I've learned that sometimes people say unkind things, but they really don't mean to hurt you. And most importantly, I've learned that there is something down deep within all of us ready to help us survive the things we think we can't survive."
Wise words indeed.
Thank you to all of you who read The Book Nosher. I still think children's books are the best!