I must never lose sight of those other deaths which precede the final, physical death, the deaths over which we have some freedom; the death of self-will, self-indulgence, self-deception, all those self-devices which, instead of making us more fully alive, make us less.
Yesterday I posted an old review of A Circle of Quiet, the first book in The Crosswicks Journal series by Madeleine L’Engle. I read that book almost a year ago, and I’ve finally gotten around to reading the second. This book, The Summer of the Great Grandmother, is also a reflective, cyclical work about a particular season in the author’s life.
If you’re looking for a series of books that accurately reflects what it’s like to move from one season to another, these are for you. When I read the first book, I was struck by how it mirrored the season I found myself in–a season of feeling tired, overwhelmed, and uneasy. This book also mirrored my current season–a season of transition and loss.
The Summer of the Great Grandmother is about Madeleine’s journey through the sickness and death of her mother. She separates the book into several parts, two of which are titled “The Mother I Knew” and “The Mother I Did Not Know.” She contrasts the mother she grew up with and the two different versions of her mother she never knew–her mother before children, and her mother in sickness.
I definitely identified with this book because I have walked a similar road with my family this summer. Madeleine manages to pull the beauty out of a difficult season without minimizing any of the pain or hurt of death.
In the middle of the book she writes, “I feel the need to reach out and say, ‘This is how it is for me. How is it for you?'”
For me, that’s a beautiful statement about coping with death, but for me that statement is also the reason I read and the reason I write. With writing, we can reach out and share what it means to be human–“This is how it is for me. How is it for you?”