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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Joy of Reading and Healing

I just finished reading a wonderful book by Will Schwalbe, titled “The End of Your Life Book Club.”  It is an amazing tribute to the love between a mother and son and their shared loved for books and reading.  It is a non-fictional account of the time Will and his mom spent together discussing books while waiting for her treatments for pancreatic cancer. 

Will’s parents had instilled an enormous love for reading in all their children but Will was able to use this activity to lead into conversations with his mom about her views, beliefs, and understanding of the world.  His mother was an amazing woman who had a passion for helping refugees in Afghanistan and around the world.

As I read the book I was touched by the relationship that Will and his mother had during this difficult time.  The books they read were secondary to their strength and courage facing this terminal illness.  However as I read the book I was quick to mark my choices of books for me to read—Will listed the titles of the books they read in the back of his book. 

Books offer so many different things to so many people.  I have always believed in the power of books and I believe that they can have a healing effect on people.  I read so many books on grief after the death of my son and mother.  Sometimes the books were the only thing that got me through the next day or the next hour.

My son, Robert, was an avid reader from the time he learned to read at three years old.  I loved the experience of sharing books from my childhood with him.  One of the books that we shared was “The Story of Ferdinand” written by Munro Leaf; illustrated by Robert Lawson.  I was happily surprised to see that this book had been a favorite of Will growing up.  As I think about the story of Ferdinand who would rather smell the flowers than fight in the ring it makes me smile.  It’s a great example of being in the moment—mindful of nothing but the big open field and the act of smelling one small flower.

I’d like to think that if Robert were still alive he and I would be sharing books. When I’m reading I imagine how he would react to a certain story line or character in the book I’m reading.  I know that he and I would have had lots of good conversations about “The End of Your Life Book Club.”


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