Wish You Were Here

Wish You Were Here: Travels Through Loss and Hope is the title of Amy Welborn’s latest book. I was delighted to have been sent an advance copy for review, and some may recall that I already wrote a post on it as I was reading it. Now that the book is about to be released (February 7, according to Random House’s website), I thought I’d say a little more about it.

I’ve long been a fan of Amy Welborn and my heart was saddened when her husband Mike (Michael Dubruiel) died suddenly of a heart attack in February 2009. For those of us who have not experienced the loss of a spouse, it is hard to even imagine what it is like to have a healthy husband leave the house one morning and then be gone. (I drew a deep painful breath at Amy’s explanation of the feeling: “When the other set of eyes that helped you make sense of the world, when the one who held the mirror that helped you see yourself so much more clearly, when your best friend and companion is here one day and just gone the next, you can feel like you’re starving.”)

Five months after his death, Amy and three of her children took a trip to Sicily and this memoir is the story of that trip. Not in the sense of a travelogue (although there are some amusing tales of travel joy and frustration many of us will relate to), but a record of the journey of a soul exploring love, loss, and faith.

This isn’t a book one can easily summarize, but let me offer a few thoughts with the hope that they are only preliminary to you reading the book on your own.

First, if we are Christians who recite a creed, we say every week, “I believe in the resurrection.” Death of a loved one has a way of forcing us to confront what doubts we might have about those words. Do I not just mouth those five words, but believe in the depth of my heart and soul in Jesus’ death and resurrection and what that means for us? That Mike did is clear throughout the book. (One of the wonderful things about Amy’s book is how much we learn about this beautiful man of faith.) And it is equally clear that Amy knows the answer is yes.

Second, belief in the resurrection does not take away the pain of loss. There is still death, and it is painful. So, as Amy says, there would have been a great dishonesty to say to her young boys, “Daddy’s heart stopped today, but its’ really okay because he’s with God in heaven now. We’re happy about that, so let’s praise God, okay?” The grief was (and probably still is) real and we need to “give sorrow its due. The Good News doesn’t blow off the bad news. It transforms it.”

Third, the journey to healing is no more linear than our spiritual path in general. Things don’t just get better and better each day. The nonlinearity, the fits and starts, the ups and downs all come through in the book.

Finally, learning how to be when one no longer has “the other set of eyes…the one who held the mirror…the best friend and companion” is not an easy thing to do. Amy shares her struggles, her steps on the path, and the big and small moments of growth with honesty and with grace. There is much one can learn from her experience and I am grateful to have read the book.

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