By Marcia Dunbar, Special Contributor…
When the One You Love Is Gone
Rebekah L. Miles
Abingdon Press, 2012
112 pages, paperback
One of the most difficult times in a person’s life is the death of a loved one. Dealing with death is a struggle that is different for each person, and there is no right way to grieve. An online search for “grief” yields millions of books on the topic, and with good reason.
When the One You Love Is Gone brings a needed offering in this genre: a view of death and grief that breaks the mold of the standard process of grieving and humanizes the act.
Most readers of this publication have heard of the five stages of grief—denial, guilt, bargaining, depression and acceptance—and may or may not know that it is normal to float in and out of these stages at times. But what is normal? Who is to say that there is a time limit on any of the stages of grief?
Throughout our lives, the circumstances we go through help us prepare for the struggles we face in life. The Rev. Rebekah Miles, associate professor of Ethics and Practical Theology at Perkins School of Theology, writes of her mother’s illness and death and the struggles that her family encountered in that journey.
With honesty and humor, Dr. Miles describes the way in which her family honors and continues to grieve the death of her mother, JoAnn Miles. She explains that our faith “does not save us from death, from grief, from loss,” but that God is with us when we encounter those circumstances. She beautifully writes that our task isn’t “getting over” the loss of someone, but learning to live with the wounds.
Within death and grief there is a desire for those who remain here to live life to the fullest. This instruction was clearly taught in Dr. Miles’ family, as her mother’s motto was “Use it up. Wear it out. Make do. Do without.” These seem such simple words, but they leave a lasting impression, especially in an era of overconsumption. JoAnn even requested that Rebekah use her time in the hospital and her death as the impetus to write a book that would teach others.
Rebekah writes that both her parents, JoAnn and the Rev. John Miles, “saw most any occasion in life as an opportunity for ministry; that was the stained glass lens through which they viewed the world.” The process of losing a loved one was no exception, but rather an opportunity to teach.
Sometimes it is painful and heart-wrenching, as grief can be, and I found myself hurting for the world’s loss of such an amazingly giving, smart and strong person. After reading about JoAnn Miles’ life, my strongest thought was that I wished so badly that I had known her.
Rebekah Miles writes the book as an invitation, or perhaps a call to attention, for those needing to sort out their own grief. Reading it provides personal insight, as well as a peek into a life well-lived and full of love.
Ms. Dunbar serves as director of evangelism for St. James UMC Little Rock. Reprinted with permission from the Arkansas United Methodist.