Wednesday, July 23, 2008
The Grieving Garden
This was a lovely and touching event. The Grieving Garden, by local authors Susan Gilbert and Suzanne Redfern, is a book with twenty-two contributors, all parents who have lost a child to death. The youngest child was a baby who died two days before she was born and the oldest was a 56-year-old woman who was killed in one of the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001. Seven of the contributors, including the authors, were in attendance at the event.
The book is quite remarkable in that the format is perfect for this topic and for the typical reader, which would likely be a parent who is seeking help and support after losing a child. The authors posed 24 questions to their contributors who then decided which questions they would answer. The book is divided into four parts, with several of the questions and answers making up the chapters in each part. The evocative result is that the reader feels as if she knows each contributor by the end of the book and has been privy to a remarkable and powerful journey. In my introduction, I quoted John Donne who said, "The death of each person [man] diminishes me..." Truly, each of these parent-writers were diminished by the loss of their child, but they have traveled the hills and valleys of their grief and have somehow become able to provide a gift to the community through this gentle and sensitive book.
Although there were over a hundred people at the event, the atmosphere felt almost like a giant support group. The reading was also a benefit for Kepler's community partner, Kara, a local grief counseling organization, so many of the audience members had become aware of the event through Kara's efforts. Thus, many, many of the people in attendance had either lost a loved one or were there to support someone who was grieving. The authors, who did a wonderful job describing the book and sharing the podium, were very sensitive to the stories of loss and questions that came from the audience.
Indeed, some people could be seen weeping quietly and, scanning the crowd, I noticed others who were lost in thought about their missing loved one.
Those not in the "grief club" (who have not experienced the death of a loved one) may think this to be a sad and depressing event. However, while there was not a lot of laughter, a sense of comaraderie and gratitude enveloped the large audience as they settled into the safety of being around others who understood the complex experience of loss. Tellingly, we sold out of The Grieving Garden during the event, the first time that has occurred for me as a host.
(This entry written by Kepler's event host, Bobbi Emel)