When I read the back cover of this
book I was, I must admit, somewhat apprehensive; after all the major premise of
the book is a man's conversations with his newly deceased wife. Sounded a
little hokey to me, but being a devout Catholic and an extremely spiritual
person, I decided to give it a look.
I read this book, from cover to
cover, in the course of a single evening. It was so good that I found it
impossible to put down, and it was a shame to finish it so quickly.
Written by Michael Weinberger, a
writer and producer in Hollywood, this story chronicles his deep devotion to
his wife Jakie and their children. When Jakie is diagnosed with cancer at 45,
Michael becomes her devout caregiver. However, Jakie eventually succumbs to
the disease and Michael, beside himself with grief, loses his direction in life.
Suddenly, and without warning, a
few days after her death Jakie begins to speak to Michael. Surprised, as well
as trying to reassure himself that he's not going insane, Michael begins to
record his conversations with Jakie. Again I must voice my own skepticism: I'm
fairly sure that Michael's voice is the only one that can be heard on the
recordings, no doubt asking Jakie question after question, but lacking a reply.
Jakie, according to the book,
reassures Michael that the she is in a wonderful place that defies imagination.
She goes on to explain that the courses we all take in life are for a reason,
and that the amount of love we give to others here on earth will count once we
leave. Michael hits the nail on the head when he draws the reader's attention
to a Beatles lyric taken from the song Abbey Road, 'The love we take
with us when we die is equal to the love we make while we're here'.
In other conversations Jakie tells
Michael that the tears he is crying are perfectly normal and that his love for
her has not gone unnoticed in heaven. She explains that she is in a constant
state of awareness and beauty, and describes the transitional process, when her
soul began to leave her body, in glowing terms (a process that, according to Jakie's
account, sounds pretty damn good).
The chapters were easy to
read, funny, tender, compassionate and sad. Some of the chapter titles are
lines taken from Beatles' songs (It Was Twenty Years
Ago Today, I Heard the News Today, Oh Boy and There Are Places I
Remember, among others).
This book was excellent, and having
lost more than a few close friends and family members in the past few years, it
was certainly comforting. Written with candor, humor and a lot of tears,
Michael Weinberger has done an excellent job. This was not your typical
run-of-the-mill book about death, dying and grief written by someone in the
medical field. It was exceptionally well-written by a grieving widower, who,
with the help of his wife, showed the reader that life, indeed, does go on.
This book is a must-read for anyone
who has ever loved and lost, as well as caregivers, hospice workers and those
in the field of spiritual bereavement.
Reading this book was as comforting
as a cup of hot chocolate on a gray winter afternoon.
© 2006 Dana Vigilante
Dana Vigilante is a hospice
educator as well as an advocate for proper end-of-life care and a certified
bereavement group facilitator. Currently writing a book based on interviews
with terminally ill hospice patients, she divides her time between New Jersey
and San Francisco.