Brief, Heavy, Recurring

Not to be presumptuous or anything, but if you ever happen to want to look through a big picture window straight into my soul, when the sun is low and making the best shadow patterns, take a couple of hours and read a beautiful children's book by Lois Lowry called A Summer To Die. She can be forgiven the earnest, sledgehammerish title for the fact that right up front it spares you the shock that certain other children's stories are guilty of slamming you with, and because she is a gifted writer and it was her first of many children's books. You can practically feel her soul pouring into it from her own experience. If you need a simple catalyst for your own complex grieving process, you can walk through it with her. "It was Molly who drew the line" is still one of the most memorable first lines of any novel I've read.

The number of things I directly relate to in the story is, frankly, absurd. The quiet awkwardness of dorky, weird, brainy Meg compared to her outgoing, popular, pretty older sister(s.) Her preoccupation with creating delicately decorated eggs and of hiding behind a camera as a way of relating to people. The era when she grew up, with no hint that digital tech was soon to take over every aspect of life, Photoshop was about to replace the darkroom and texting would replace the phone. A new life arriving as an older one is exiting. And of course the primary element: the death of an immediate family member, in a hospital that she was too young to be allowed to visit. In fact I identified so closely with Meg that, for awhile, I had a not unreasonable fear of my own sister, with whom I bickered constantly, contracting something fatal and it would feel like my fault. The parts I directly identified with are so numerous (if she'd mentioned piano on top of everything else, my head would have exploded) that it only highlights what was different. I longed for my dad, or even a Will Banks as a surrogate dad. "It is Margaret you mourn for." It is Susan I mourn for.

Every few years I pick up my sister's old copy of this little book from where it rests and read it again as quickly as possible when I know it will be safe to have a little grief hangover. This morning I sniffled at my twelve year old son with his head nodding that I would love for him to read it, now or someday. It will always be there for him and for my daughter, and every page in it can give them a very good understanding of a very good many things. 

It holds up well. Go read it in the two hours you might have spent zoning out to another stream of click bait articles on the Twenty Most Insanely Amazing Whatevers That You Won't Believe. A book title "A Summer to Die" may be just as dramatic, but there is substance to back it up. The internet tells me that Lois Lowry has said, "My family, stoic, Wasp and Nordic, was silent after the loss." Yet another thing to relate to. I should contact her, and thank her.