Here If You Need Me: A True Story, I knew immediately that I wanted to write about it in the context of the Ash Wednesday admonition. Braestrup is a Unitarian Universalist minister who has found a vocation as chaplain to the Maine Warden Service. She is charged to bring comfort to families and the wardens themselves when the Maine wilderness claim victims, some ignorant of the hazards of the wild and some too intoxicated to use whatever brains God gave them. The job can be pretty gruesome.
But additionally, this book is about Braestrup's own trajectory from the sudden accidental death of her beloved partner, the father of her children, to seminary, and then to a new career of service. That is, it is about knowing that death is comes … and going on to live beyond death.
Her deceased husband, Drew, had wanted to go to seminary. She wrestled with whether her own choice to take up ministry was somehow an attempt to hang on to her dead partner and realized the answer was yes -- and no.
Along with her children, she visited Drew's grave site, each time bringing a new stone to add to the marker. And then, eventually, she came to understand it was time to stop bringing the stones.
This book was suggested to me by a dear friend who several years ago lost his longtime spouse and admired best friend. I feel as if I'd been admitted to a window on how he has sought to come to terms with a grief whose depth I can only shy away from. Here's a little bit more from Braestrup on how she goes on:
This seems a good starting point for the self-examination of Lent; what am I doing with the one life I have the chance to live?