In 2008, Jenny Hess lost her four year old son, Russell, in a sledding accident. In this profound and insightful book, she writes about her journey through the grief that she experienced after her son died. And it is a journey.
But you know? As I sit here and try and figure out what to tell you about the book, it’s hard to come up with the right words. Was it harrowing? Emotionally gripping? Uniquely compelling? It was all those things, and yet those words don’t seem to do it justice. It seems better to simply call it beautiful, and real and pure.
Jenny doesn’t hold anything back in this book. She walks you through every emotion that she felt as she struggled to come to terms with Russell’s death. She shares the darkness and the desperation, which at times was heart wrenching to read, but she also shares her enduring love for Jesus Christ, and bears a near constant witness of His awareness of her.
For someone that has experienced the loss of a child, this is a book that will say, “I understand. I’ve been there. It’s okay. You’re not alone.” It is not a book that preaches or pontificates on “how” to heal; on what is or isn’t normal. It’s simply a mother sharing her heart, bearing her testimony, reaching out to lift others up and say, “this is my journey.” And by doing so, I think it might be one of the most healing books of all.
I have not experienced such loss in my life. I cannot even begin to pretend to understand what it would feel like to lose one of my children. But I know that after reading Jenny’s book I feel like I have a greater sense of awareness, and feel a stronger desire to say and do more when others in my life experience grief. I also found myself asking the question, Would my faith be enough? Would I be okay if this happened to me? This book was a reminder for me how important it is to remain close to my Heavenly Father, to trust in his plan for me, to anchor my faith around Jesus Christ and know that whatever life brings, He is there. He understands. He will help me through.
There were so many passages in this book that I loved, but this one might be my favorite:
Our family now has a new reason to choose the right and follow Jesus. We have a new reason to look to the heavens. Now we belong to heaven. We know someone there, someone who is preparing our home and awaiting our arrival, someone who showed us that the death of a righteous person is not sad for that person even though it is excruciating for those left behind. That was Russell’s gift to us. By going there first, he made heaven a real place, a place where we will be able to live together. In his own special way, Russell connected us to heaven with a bond that can never be broken.
I’m so glad I read, and I’m so glad Jenny had the courage to share her journey.