Intensely personal stories often illuminate universal truths. Writer and actor Jim Beaver’s memoir is one of those. In October 2003, his wife Cecily was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. In an effort to keep loved ones abreast of the situation, Jim began sending a nightly e-mail to 125 friends and family members. These messages, eventually reaching an audience of nearly 4,000 and spanning a year, are the basis of “Life’s That Way”.
Jim writes: “I’ve attempted to flood the path with light where I could, and where I could not I’ve wanted at least to hold up a candle so that others coming this way might not stumble too painfully.” And indeed he has. The first 1/3 of the book traces the course of Cecily’s illness, painting her so vividly that her death in early March is a punch in the gut, even to the reader who met her a mere 125 pages earlier.
The remaining 2/3 of “Life’s That Way” deals with the aftermath in a way that is immediate and intimate. Beaver continues the nightly e-mails, processing his experiences, sharing the struggle of raising a young daughter alone and mourning his beloved wife. “I will bear this grief. I will endure it. I will reach a point where it doesn’t kick me down an abyss whenever I turn my back on it.”
As someone who still deals with the abyss of grief on a daily basis, I found this beautiful book wrenching and yet somehow hopeful as Jim Beaver weaves wisdom and humor into his story and their lives. I recommend it highly, not only to those who have faced such grief but to anyone who someday might. As Beaver so pointedly writes: “Some kind of Providence keeps us blind to the intensity of suffering so as to keep us sane, until that day when the suffering is our own or that of someone we love beyond imagining.”
But taking this journey with Jim, Cecily and their daughter Maddie has made me more acutely aware of the necessity for life beyond the grief.
[You can find "Life's That Way" now on Amazon or GoodReads.]
When I was a kid, I got bit by two dogs. The first was a stranger’s beagle and the second, our own persnickety Irish Setter. After that, I became particularly shy with dogs and remained so for many years. A couple of boxers I met in the mid 90s started rehabing my relationship with the canine family and now, well I’ve got more dogs than I know what to do with. These days, I go out of my way to show children how not to startle dogs, how to hold out their hands for a sniff before petting, how to read wary body language and stay safe. So it is particularly embarrassing, this utterly stupid thing I did on Thursday night that landed me in the E/R and earned me eight stitches in my lip.
For the record, if you know that a dog is particularly protective over chewy treats because other dogs tend to sneak up and take them while said dog is sleeping, it would be best to NOT tuck a fresh treat in beside him after he’s already asleep and then lean in to kiss the top of his cute little head.
I don’t know which one of us was more horrified in that moment, just after.
I left the hospital with a stitched-up lip and an antibiotic that gave me full-on flu symptoms for four days. Fortunately, THAT bit is over, so it’s just me and my laced-up lip left to deal with. We didn’t cancel our Monterey trip on Friday and I’m so glad because it was good in spite of everything. The Mr. keeps trying to drag me out of the house and has been intermittently successful, but for the most part, I’m kinda keeping to myself until I don’t feel like Sally any more. As for the penitent pup, he’s curled up beside me just now and under house arrest at the behest of local law enforcement until Sunday night at which time he may get a walk but will NOT be kissed upon the head at bedtime.
Let sleeping dogs lie.
There’s a reason that’s a thing.
This is an open letter to the transphobic group Privacy for All Students which has been working overtime to repeal California’s new law protecting transgender kids in the schools:
I get it. You’re trying to protect your children from a perceived threat. Some of you are even willing to file false reports of transgender kids doing the things you imagine they’d want to do so you can get the ball rolling. I’ve lied to protect my child. I understand the urge. But the reality is that your children aren’t the ones in danger.
Our transgender children are routinely harassed, humiliated and violently violated by sweet little darlings like yours. Our transgender children are singled out, attacked and shunned by those good little boys and girls you’re raising to be ignorant, hateful and terrified of anything they don’t understand.
Your misplaced indignation and transphobic rhetoric is a real and present danger to our transgender children and your obsession with peeking over stalls honestly freaks us out to the point that we wish we could keep YOU out of the restrooms our children use. Quite honestly, you are the reason a law like this needed to exist in the first place.
Our transgender children deserve the right to use the restroom in which they feel safest, because they are subjected on a daily basis to small-minded, cold-hearted, bigoted little bastards like the ones you’re raising to be just like you.
one pissed off trans-parent
In Writing News - I’m one week and 16,000 words into the new novel. I owe much of that word count to a handful of Twitter friends, busting out word sprints of 20 – 30 minutes throughout the day. There’s something about the joint effort, even with virtual strangers, that is motivating. Because writing is, by nature, a solitary act, we can get mired in our own muck and talk ourselves out of exciting and productive work. I’m trying to keep myself accountable this time around – to myself, my NaNoWriMo buddies and most importantly, to my novel.
I had a serious slump on Friday, writing next-to-nothing and Saturday wasn’t much better. But today, I jumped over the stuck point and was able to push through three more chapters. With the exception of the nagging feeling that I’m telling the story from the wrong POV, I’m feeling good about the progress I’ve made and how the story is unfolding. My shitty first draft (a la Annie Lamott) is well on its way.
In Reading News – I’m 2/3 of the way through Jim Beaver’s “Life’s That Way”, a memoir spanning his wife’s illness and the aftermath of her death. Because it was written as a series of e-mails to loved ones as the events were taking place, there is a rawness to the writing that is wrenching. Incredibly engaging and some seriously brilliant thoughts on grief.
To balance out the intensity of Beaver’s book, I’m finishing up Christopher Moore’s “Lamb; The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal” and starting in on Diana Rowland’s “My Life As A White Trash Zombie”.
In Other News – My oven has been repaired, I’ve acquired a cat named Fraidy and I get to see my godchildren in Monterey next weekend. How about you?
Nearly every night for the last 4 ½ years, I’ve fallen asleep with an episode of Corner Gas playing on the television. There’s 107 episodes in all and I can crash out to the same one for a week before moving on. Still, I’ve seen them all so many times I could rewrite entire scenes with little help.
Jeremy could help.
He knows them by heart as well.
And Ashlie could fill in some of the best bits if she was still here.
We found Corner Gas in 2008 – stumbled into an episode titled “Worlds Biggest Thing” and kinda fell in love all at once with the wit, wordplay and brilliant comedic cast. When Ashlie died in early 2009, few things were comforting but somehow this show was.
Nothing horrible happens in Dog River. People don’t change or leave or die and somehow the jokes get funnier over time. Werewolves fighting robots still gets me, I’m prone to guffaw over a healthy fear of pink eye, and angering the internet(s) is awesome every time.
Perhaps it seems odd, linking a sitcom to my grief process and being unable to untangle those two things nearly five years down the road. But I’m not one to change what works – what keeps me from spiraling into the darkness every night. Maybe some day I won’t need Emma, Oscar, Wanda and Brent, Hank, Lacey, Davis and Karen to lull me to sleep. And maybe I always will. I’m ok with that. It’s my happy place.
You’re the best.