Thursday, August 6, 2015
The Angel In My Pocket by Sukey Forbes
Anyone looking at their lives would consider them blessed. Part of the oldest New England blueblood families, wealthy, and blessed with three beautiful children, Sukey Forbes had it all. Her ancestors included not only the Forbes family, but one of her direct ancestors was Ralph Waldo Emerson. They had houses and not a summer cottage, but a summer island, which was the family enclave and where traditions such as sailing, horseback riding, hiking and fishing were considered normal activities.
Then when she was six, the middle child, Charlotte, died. She was fine one day and gone, inexplicably the next. Forbes was left with the realization that no one is safe and no life is blessed to the extent that they are protected from disaster. This book explores what life was like for her afterwards and how she worked through her grief. Her background hemmed her in as a lifetime of being stoic and unemotional was a barrier between her and the grief work she needed to do. She took comfort in the support of family and friends, and from the stories of her ancestors. Emerson, for example, also lost a beloved child at age six, his namesake son.
Nothing really helped. Not religious before, she could not take comfort in religion which to her seemed full of promises with no evidence of reality. After a year or more of grieving and working through various counseling groups, she found something that opened the door to recovery. She met with a medium that knew her story without being told and that gave insight into where Charlotte was now and how she was doing. Although she knew others would not believe her, she found comfort there and continued to work with a medium as she emerged slowly from her overpowering grief.
This is a beautiful book. Every parent's worst fear is the death of their child, yet many of us are called to walk this painful road. Forbes exploration of the landscape of grief could be helpful to others just starting on this journey that never really ends, and that seems impossible to walk. Her portrayal of a life afterwards that will never be the same but can be rewarding in time is a useful message. This book is recommended for readers of memoirs and for those who have also lost a child.