This past week, I have been working intently to finish up details for publishing the Lovely Traces of Hope book. I had one of those moments as I sat late into the night reading/ editing/ proofing yet again through my own story.
For the umpteenth time, I was reading through Chapter 14, Turning East, which I have sent to many of you already. (Click here if you haven’t read it yet.) In that chapter, I share excerpts of Jerry Sittser’s book called A Grace Disguised. Jerry literally led me through much of my grief through the sharing of his own story.
Several months ago as I was reworking that chapter for the book, I sent Jerry a letter to thank him for being bold enough to share his story because of the influence it has had in mine.
Here was his reply…
I am so grateful that you wrote. Thank you for your kind and encouraging words. I was just sick when reading about the loss of your daughter. It never grows old, largely because the FEELING of loss in the case of my own daughter is still so real and fresh, even after all these years. So the same feeling carries over when I hear of other such losses. I can picture you throwing my book across the room, too, when you read the section about turning east, plunging into the darkness. I would have thrown the book across the room, too. But you did in fact face the darkness.
That your 14 year old was writing her story is simply amazing to me. Quite the girl to take on that project. You were right to honor her by finishing it. Will you self-publish it? I would be happy to write some kind of endorsement, in a way that is appropriate to the situation. Memory does in fact help complete a story, for all losses call a sudden halt to business as usual, as I wrote in “A Grace Disguised.” You were given a concrete opportunity what all of us must in fact do.
Thanks for writing, and asking. Keep in touch with me about it. I wish you well.
In one of those moments, I pondered his words.
“feeling of loss is still so real and fresh”
“Memory does in fact help complete a story, for all losses call a sudden halt to business as usual.”
I am so much younger in my grief than Jerry and yet his grief still feels real and fresh. I was reminded that mine – and yours – will feel this way for the rest of our lives.
But in the process of writing my story- I have come to see that the story is not just about sudden loss of life as we knew it and the intense sadness of losing our daughter.
It is a story of hope in the middle of pain.
Of life after death.
Of joy through the sorrow.
I was honored when Jerry read my manuscript and wrote an endorsement for the book.
Kathy Burrus lost her daughter, Leisha, in a tragic accident when Leisha was only a teenager. Parents assume their children will outlive them, which makes the loss of a child not only painful but confusing and disorienting. At this point Kathy experienced what literally tens of millions of mothers have experienced throughout human history. But in the wake of the loss she discovered something, which changed everything. She found a journal that contained the beginning of Leisha’s life story, a story that was stopped short so suddenly. How many teenagers write their life story?
Kathy decided to finish the story. The book you have before you is that finished story. People’s lives carry forward as memory and influence, for good or for ill. This unusual book illustrates such influence in a way that is concrete, moving, and powerful. Normally a daughter carries forward the story of her mother; in this case the mother carries forward the story of the daughter. I am grateful beyond measure that Kathy chose to complete the story. God bless her for it.
JERRY SITTSER, PhD Professor of theology at Whitworth University Author of A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss
And A Grace Revealed: How God Redeems the Story of Your Life
Yes this is one of those moments I shall never forget. The influence of one man’s story has changed mine. I pray that the influence continues as Lovely Traces of Hope carries forward the story of my daughter.
Mr. Sittser, sir!
Thank you for sharing out of your pain!
Thank you for grieving out loud!
Thank you for letting me know I wasn’t going crazy, but was feeling the weight of my love for my daughter.
Thank you for reminding me that my loss did not have to define me, but my response would!
You changed the way I walked this journey! I know you have probably heard that a million times. But I want to be one who says it again! You led me through weeks of my grief and have strongly influenced the last 10 years.
From a grateful mom, Thank you!