Alone on the Yellow Brick Road by Beverly Kalinin

yellow brick roadBeverly Kalinin has written a lyrical, reflective, and compelling narrative of grief. Her memoir Alone on the Yellow Brick Road is subtitled “On Love, Life, Death, Grief, and Moving On.” Beverly tells the story of the emotional, psychological, and spiritual journey she took over three years, beginning with the cancer diagnosis of her husband Bob nine months before his death.

On the surface, the book tells a simple story of how – after 55 years of sharing their lives -- Bob died and Beverly survived. There’s nothing especially unusual about such a story. Everybody will inhabit at least one of these roles during a lifetime, and many of us will play both of them at different times. What makes Beverly’s book unusual is her ability to perceive multiple layers of emotional and psychic reality, and her capacity as a writer to bring to life the mythic elements of her journey with Bob. She threads her dreams and visions with waking perceptions and powerful memories, and uses this tapestry of images and sensations to help us connect with and learn from her lived experience of loss.

In her foreword, Beverly suggests that how we have lived is how we will grieve, and tells us that she has written both a book on grief and a love story:

In the months following the death of my husband of fifty years I attended support groups where, listening to others, I perceived emerging patterns of their grieving processes. With time, I determined these patterns of healing were based on how the people had handled other problems in their lives. Generally, the degree of success they had had in living positively and well was consistent with how they dealt with grief. Finally, I decided that the history, spirit, and quality of one’s life were directly consistent with that of one’s mourning process.

Reading Beverly’s memoir made me reflect on the preciousness of my own relationship with Alix, whom I met twenty-two years ago. It’s hard for me now to imagine living without her. My own prospective grief is hard for me to get a handle on. I can much more easily imagine how Alix would be devastated by my death, and then Beverly’s book helps me to imagine how Alix will be able to go on with her life, living through the terrible pain of that loss, learning to live in the sunlight again. The consequence of such a reflection for me is my intense desire to appreciate every moment I have available to me with Alix, every ort of shared experience I have with Alix, every fragment of time and space we have in common.

Thanks, Beverly! You wrote a good book.