Life After Breath: After Her Husband Takes His Last Breath, and After She Tries to Catch Hers by Susan VandePol
About this book: (from the publisher) The word “widow” carries with it the meaning of being severed; torn apart from what she was once one with. In Hebrew, it means “an empty house.” To be a widow also means to be prepared “apart” but God’s tender heart never meant for her to be isolated and crippled. Widows are prepared apart for a “set-apart” calling.
Life After Breath is a warm and honest companion and friend in the midst of a widow’s darkness and seclusion, and sets in place the foundation for her future with insight into a sacred Biblical revelation that will take your breath away.
About the author: Susan VandePol founded Families of the Fallen for Fire Departments and churches after the duty-related death of her husband in 2005. The protocol is now being used in departments across the country and is endorsed by experts in the fields of Grief, Crisis, Trauma, Suicide Prevention, CIR, PTSD and CISM. Susan is certified in Grief, Crisis and Trauma Counseling, Grief Coaching, Master Life Coaching, Individual Crisis Intervention, Victim Response and Basic and Family Mediation. Her speaking engagements include women’s retreats and conferences, a Keynote at the ICISF World Congress and addressing the Honor Guard at the International Association of Firefighters Memorial. She homeschooled her 3 children without ever succumbing to pressure to wear Birkenstocks and now lives with her husband whom she shamelessly manipulated into falling in love with her. He obliged by sweeping her off her feet with a large broom. They now reside in Michigan.
Genre: Non-fiction/Religion/Christian Life/Death, Grief, Bereavement
Reminds me of: Pilgrimage Through Loss by Linda Hunt
[Tweet “Luminous expression of grief offers hope & calling to widows @SusanVandePol”]
Reflection: To be honest, I really had no business reading this book. I felt an impostor and couldn’t help but think I didn’t belong there. Because I am not a widow, and therefore I could not relate in the way this luminous expression of grief deserves.
And yet — Life After Breath is so powerful, so moving in its insight that I felt I must read it in order that I might now share it with you–however much that privilege is not mine by rights.
What I offer here, then, is an outsider’s perspective, though I do believe that if I were to find myself a widow (a thought that nearly steals my breath), this book — Susan VandePol’s story — would provide the balm of perspective.
From its opening lines, I learned that the author understands the inestimable power of story, and thus she captured my attention from the first. Intimate. Deeply personal. Wise. Compassionate. I could imagine each topical chapter read daily, piecemeal, as a devotional of sorts. I could also imagine the book swallowed whole in one, searing gulp.
In these pages, Susan VandePol offers hope, and encouragement (by which I mean she inspires one to take hold of courage), and something I’d never before considered as attached to widowhood: purpose. She writes,
“You will see … that you are meant to be one of [God’s] greatest allies in these times of faint hearts and tribulation. As a widow, you have been called for a great and unique purpose.”
Called for a purpose — really? What a gift, for one suffering an unspeakable loss — to be shown that the pain of that terrible severing might not be for naught.
Maya Angelou famously said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” But I see a corollary here: There is also great agony for those waiting to for someone else’s story to be told.
The beauty of this book is that one widow did not allow her story to remain untold — so that it might lessen not only her agony, but another’s as well.
Thanks to Veritas Communications for providing me a free copy to review. All opinions are mine.