A Son’s Life Remembered with Joy
In this book Jenny Koralek, an editor and author of many books for children, recounts her journey through the multiple grave illnesses of her son, Ben, who died aged thirty-nine in 2006. This is a chronicle of a mother’s search to come to an understanding of her son’s suffering and her own deeply felt loss, and it is an expression of her grief.
I experienced mixed feelings while reading this in some ways lonesome and haunting book. The haunt is in where do I go when I die? She asks on page seventy-nine: “Where is he? I want to KNOW. How is he?” These can be terrifying questions that leave us feeling shocked and forlorn in our sense of separation and the emotions that arise when we feel the need to know that we are not alone. Words may well reassure for a while, but what could “offer the peace of God, which passeth all understanding”?
This mother suffers, experiencing human frailty as she searches through different spiritual traditions–including Gurdjieff, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, and Judaic–for the grace of healing. All who have experienced the suffering of an offspring’s death–whether in advanced pregnancy, stillbirth, childhood, or other stages deemed premature–will find moments of correspondence with her experiences.
The book also indirectly reveals the extent of loss in much of contemporary society of the profound understanding contained in communal traditions and ceremonies for the “Waking of the Dead”, whose purpose is to constructively guide the energies released at the moment of death and the important period of mourning which follows. Much of our grief has become a personalized fragmentation that leaves us vulnerable to a form of comfort that, in one respect, deflects us from the natural howl of animal distress and, in another, from the awesome witness that no pain or loss is one’s own.
The “Sage of Arunachala”, Sri Ramana Maharshi, indicated that grief is one of the eight fetters from which we need to be liberated. It is fitting, then, that Koralek’s memoir concludes with the oft-quoted words from the Bhagavad Gita (Book II):
Your sorrow is for nothing.
The wise grieve neither for
the living nor for the dead…
The unreal has no being.
That which is real never ceases to be…
Mother, Do Not Weep For Me is published by Morning Light Press and available through Amazon UK or US