Marian Shannon Miller Lord is a mother with whom I have much in common. Reading her memoir, Family Roots: A Mother’s Search for Meaning, was validating for me. While we come from very different backgrounds, we both shared similar feelings about our experiences with our children, coped in some of the same ways, and our search for meaning followed similar paths. Shannon died in 2013 and her dying wish was to have her memoir published. Her husband, Larry, saw to it that it was done and Family Roots was published in 2017. Shannon appears in my memoir, because she had a profound effect on my life. I’m grateful to know more of her story and to have an even closer connection with this kindred spirit.
If you love poetry that is rich and deep and takes you into a woman’s inner world … if you love inspirational memoir that takes you through a journey of overcoming entrenched obstacles, you will love Lynn Robbins’ memoir, Two Plus Two is Fear. Writing poetry and reading it in public proved to be Lynn’s path out of anxiety. Her creatively-written memoir shows how Lynn refused to be held back by fear and the obstacles that threatened her dream of becoming a published author.
Elizabeth Lesser is one of my favorite human beings and thus one of my favorite authors.
Her book, Broken Open, had a profound effect on my life. Reading it was part of what helped me make sense of my own life. I had the opportunity to tell her that when I participated in writing programs for a week at the Omega Institute.
Most recently, I read Marrow: A Love Story. What I loved most about it was the way she and her sister deepened their relationship … how they got real and authentic with each other and overcame years of misunderstandings and misinterpretations. In the end, their love for each other transcended every barrier.
Jill Kandel’s So Many Africas: Six Years in a Zambian Village is just the kind of memoir that inspires me. It is real and raw and painful and glorious. When Kandel tried to talk about her experiences as a young bride with a husband so enthralled with his work that he didn’t notice how the squalor they lived in nor how giving birth to children in the most primitive of conditions was affecting her, her church friends didn’t want to hear it. They preferred hearing victorious, happily-ever-after stories, but that wasn’t the story she had to tell. So she closed her mouth and began writing. It took her fourteen years to write her story. It is written sparingly in an unusual and elegant prose style that is visceral and haunting…just as her life in Africa had been. I highly recommend this compelling story of thriving in the harshest of conditions.
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Darcy Leech shows grace and grit in her story about surviving and thriving in a family ravaged by genetic disease. When she was three, her brother was born with a rare form of muscular dystrophy, revealing this diseases presence in her mother’s family of origin. Against all odds, he lived thirteen years with Darcy as one of his greatest advocates. She is honest about how hard it was to be as compassionate toward her mother. She did not want to accept that her mother would die young as well. Darcy had just given birth to her first child when her mother died at age 51.
Darcy wrote her memoir as a way to heal, perhaps the reason many memoirs are written. In the writing, she came to know her mother as a strong woman of faith who courageously chose death rather than a life sustained by machines. Darcy transforms her family’s story into an inspiring one as she names the many gifts she now knows she received from her mother.
Because this disease has touched my family, many memories were triggered as I read Darcy’s story. I could relate to the stress her family lived with and, as one who also does not carry the disease, to the impatience and guilt. I, too, live with the sorrow of what could have been and the knowledge that each day is precious and must be lived to the fullest in the NOW.
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Paul Kalanithi was a talented neurosurgeon with a promising career and a fascination with learning about death. At the age of 36, in the last year of his residency, he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. He could not miss the irony.
I did not find his memoir, published after his death, easy to read. Yet it is written with the poetry and poignancy of one steeped in classical literature…one who is not afraid to explore the depths of the human experience of living and dying.
Kalanithi takes you into his world of living and becoming a doctor who developed empathy for his patients. He also takes you into his world of living while dying and the agonizing decisions he was forced to make to honor life lived with integrity. His death is a great loss to humanity. His memoir enriches all with the courage to read it.
In her remarkably-crafted memoir, Walking Nature Home, Susan Tweit recounts the courageous, unconventional path she took after being told in 1980, at the age of twenty-three, she had an autoimmune disease that would likely kill her in two to five years. Instead of succumbing to the medical establishments prognosis, as a plant eco-biologist, she used her knowledge and intuitive wisdom to allow the rhythms of nature and the constellation of the stars teach her how to live with her illness. She left a marriage that was not healthy for her and found the love of her life. She initiated a move to a small town in Colorado that provided space for she and her beloved could feed their spirits by expressing their artistic passions. Thirty-six years later, still living in alignment with the healing powers of nature, love, and creativity, she thrives. What is thrilling of me is having her for an online friend and one I will soon meet in person.
Most touching for me was the way her parents struggled to understand and accept their free-thinking daughter’s choices while never withdrawing their love for her, finally realizing the gift she had given to others in their faith just by being her authentic self. Without knowing it, Nicole gave voice to the struggles of many Mormon’s, opening dialogue between parents and children and the church-at-large, creating the possibility of finding a better way of nurturing the singles in their midst.
Amanda Lindhout’s memoir is an amazing account of transcending one of the most horrific of life experiences. She actually developed compassion for the Islamic extremists who held her captive for fifteen harrowing months.