Book Review: “Letters to My Son” by Mitch Carmody

from Mary K:
I picked up this book at The Compassionate Friends National Conference in Dallas, Texas, where I was presenting a workshop. I’ve been speaking for hospice, church, and grief groups for three years, but this was my first experience speaking at an event where the audience consisted mostly of parents who had lost a child. I found myself drawn to the young women around my daughter Elizabeth’s age and to workshops dealing with the spiritual aspect of grief, as well as signs from our loved ones. Mitch Carmody’s presentation on the topic of signs from those who have died was not only very powerful, but also served as validation for something I have been experiencing since the death of my mother in 2010, husband in 2012, and grandson in 2013.

letters to my son
When I spotted Mitch’s book at the confernce, I was immediately intrigued. First of all, because he’d written letters to his nine-year-old son who had lost his battle with cancer. I am drawn to books that have anything to do with letter-writing. And while I have not written letters to my mother or grandson since their death, I did write one to my husband David after he died, which I then buried in front of his tombstone. I was dealing with a lot of regrets at the time. Why had it taken something as awful as cancer to revitalize our marriage? Why hadn’t I always been the wife I’d become in those five and a half years post-cancer? Why hadn’t I realized his shoulder pain was from a heart attack? Why didn’t I make him see the doctor sooner, or demand an EKG? Why wasn’t I next to him the night he died? Why? Why? Why? There is only so much emotional upheaval a person can handle, and I was making myself sick with worry and regret. A writer by trade, I’d begun journaling the morning after David passed away, but I believe that single handwritten letter to my husband went a long way in helping me heal. For one thing, I could imagine what his reply would have been to most of what I’d written, particularly my regret at not having realized he was having a heart attack. “Mary, it was my body, and I didn’t know. How could you?” So I wrote a letter to my husband and then buried it in the cemetery. Mitch Carmody, however, held onto the letters he wrote to his son, and shared them in his book, Letters to My Son: Turning Loss to Legacy.
Why do I think this is an important addition to the narrative? For the same reason I included actual journal entries and pieces of my blog in my book, Refined By Fire: A Journey of Grief and Grace. It is one thing for a non-fiction author to look back and remember a period of time. It is another to re-visit that time through the thoughts that were going through their mind in the midst of grief. What does grief feel like ten days after the loss? What about at ten weeks? Ten months? Will I be okay? Is what I feel normal? In those early, dark days of grief, I wanted (needed) to know the answer to those kinds of questions, as would any parent who has lost a child. By sharing his letters, Mitch returns to that place of raw grief. But don’t let the title fool you~ Letters to My Son is about way more than the letters he wrote to his son during that time. His story is an inspiring one; of faith, hope, and yes, miracles. I was not disappointed~Mitch is as powerful a writer as he is a speaker. He is also a talented artist. You can read more about him at http://heartlightstudios.net/

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