I spent a considerable portion of this rainy Thursday afternoon at what is quickly becoming my favorite local coffeeshop. Though pricier than Starbucks, I like the coffee better (gasp!); the ambience and decidedly local flavor appeals to me more. Though I'm a straight-up soy latte type of gal, I appreciate that the chocolate that is stirred into James' mochas is as homemade as the pastries underneath the glass case by the cash register.
I've become more drawn into reading and writing during the free spots in my days now. I find coffeeshops the perfect place to do this. When I'm at home, it's too easy to be distracted by laundry or Facebook, or to give into the urge to rearrange the piles of things that have collected on the dining room table. For awhile, I avoided reading any of the growing stack of books on loss and grieving I've been given and lent not because I thought I would find them invaluable, but because I wanted to navigate my own way through loss and develop my own thoughts about it without the temptation of being influenced or guided by another's experience. When I wrote, I wanted (and still want) everything to come from my heart and my experience, no matter how unpolished. I wanted to struggle to find my own words, rather than look for someone else to frame my experience with words from their own.
Some books have had me nodding throughout because they resonate so deeply. They are honest and raw in their emotion, and hopeful in the truth offered without dismissing the deep mysteries that continue to loom close and heavy. Others are dissonant to me, written in a tone that would be better suited to a cookbook. They seem to want to make grief simple.
When it comes to reading what other people have written, I find that I care a lot not only about content, but about how it is delivered. It seems that in writing about grief and loss, the language should fit the subject matter. I don't want to be told about someone's personal experience of grief as if he were taking me on a guided tour of Disneyland. I don't want to be preached at, or read sentences that mimic a Dick and Jane book in their structure. And I don't want the author to make me feel as though grief is something that can be neatly packaged or succinctly explained.
When reading what others have written about how they navigated through grief, I want to feel their tears and anger. I want to hear their wails and the screams echoing in my ears before they ever give me a Bible verse or ask me pointedly if I'm ready to surrender all my hopes and dreams for a plan that is not my own. I want to hear the fists pounding, the nails raking, the sobs and gasping for air. I want them to acknowledge that for all the perfect theology they can deliver, and all the intellectual ways it can be explained, grief by its very nature is intensely emotional. It is unpredictable and chaotic at times; it isn't linear. It is devastating. I want them to write in a way that convinces me that they know this.
And then they can tell me what they know about hope and about the truth. Then they can reach into the dark with one hand to grab mine, and point to the light with the other. They can tell me the verses, talk to me about surrender, about peace, about how they held on to faith in the dark. They can tell me because they first showed me that they know.
That is the book I want to read.