2013 was a very hard year for me. I lost two men who were very dear to me and part of my life from age 16, roommates in my 20s, and companions at all important events, family gatherings, and holidays. 'Lost' is such a silly, shallow term for dead, died, passed away--never to be at the end of the telephone line giving advice, gossiping, or sharing. It is a hollow feeling to witness our youth, our shared jokes, our shared sense of connection, pass out of my life and leave only memories, gone on a passing breath. I know that accumulated memories shape our here and now, and we are as alive in them as we are in our everyday, ordinary routines. But still, I grieve for what is not present now, and the loss of their companionship today and tomorrow.
So why is it so hard to talk about death? It is with us, the living, every moment. It is profound, unavoidable, and will happen to everyone at some point in time. Perhaps it is because it is so big it is impossible to have a nice chat about it at the shallow end of the pool. And who, in the routine of ordinary life, wants to paddle in the deep end, where all the dark things lurk under the water? Maybe it's because crying in public seems so.....unseemly. Or perhaps it's because what comes next after death is so unknown, and what is unknown can be very frightening. Loss of a close friend or relative is only the opening door to our fears of our own death.
When times have been particularly hard or bad in my life, books have been such steadfast companions. I have found solace and my way back to life through stories and the understanding of shared experiences. I am in awe of, and profoundly grateful to, all the authors who have had the courage to take their heart in hand and set it down on paper. As well, I am grateful to every friend, colleague, and customer who has allowed me to cry in public and share stories. Sharing stories is the best way I know to get through life, and death.
I thought I'd share a few of the books that have been inspirational, comforting, or feed memories for me this past year. They are (in no particular order):
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
The Moth, edited by Adam Gopnik
Mink River by Brian Doyle
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Monument Road by Charlie Quimby
The Brothers K by David Duncan
More Than This by Patrick Ness
Original Self by Thomas Moore
Winter Morning Walks by Ted Kooser
When One Has Lived a Long Time Alone by Galway Kinnell
Given by Wendell Berry
Teachings of Don Juan by Carlos Castaneda
They Shoot Canoes Don't They by Patrick McMannis
Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins
See more of Jonica's recommendations on villagebooks.com.