Echol’s book is not a theology of death, yet teaches that God reigns over death and provides ultimate hope beyond it. This is a beautiful, hopeful little book and one I’m glad to recommend.
I don’t know what it is like to lose a spouse. I don’t know what it is like to bid farewell to the person with whom I’ve built a home and had a family and shared a life. I don’t know the unique griefs, the unique sorrows, the unique traumas that come with so devastating a separation. On the one hand I can’t know without actually enduring it myself, but on the other hand, I can learn from those who have experienced it and have recorded it. I can learn so I can better serve those in my life who are enduring this trial.
Mary Echols lost her husband very suddenly and unexpectedly after he suffered a heart attack. And in the aftermath of her loss she was desperate to find out how much of her experience of loss was typical. “I began looking for something I could read that would allow me into someone else’s journey and help me to see that the little things I was stressing over were okay,” she says. “I needed to know that someone else couldn’t change the sheets, that someone else washed her spouse’s clothes with hers, that someone else would open his bathroom drawer that held hairbrush, aftershave, cologne, and breathe in his scent. I needed to have these things validated!” Because she couldn’t find anything, she decided to journal her journey and the result is And Then There Was One: An Emotionally Raw Journey Through Spousal Grief.
The book’s format is what I have found typical for a book that has been written in a time of deep grief in that it is comprised of short thoughts that are often very urgent and very poignant. Some of it is written as if to her husband, some as if to herself, and some as if to an unknown reader like you and me. She recounts returning home to find her husband slumped in his chair and tells, how though she was a seasoned RN, nothing had prepared her for the moment. She tells about the early hours in which, as if in a terrible dream, she went through the motions of calling her children, and the early days in which she cried herself to sleep in a bed that was now cold and empty.
But time passes and she finds that, though time does not heal all wounds (as some insensitively suggest) it does provide space in which healing can begin to take place. She observes that the initial stages of healing seem to proceed in six-week increments where every six weeks she realizes she has begun to see some change in herself, some new ability, some new acceptance. She begins to do those things all grieving spouses must—write thank you notes to people who have brought her a meal, box up her husband’s possessions, learn to shop for one instead of two.