Title: Disaster Falls: A Family Story
Author: Stéphane Gerson
Death of a child is a tragedy that can alter the life of the family members in unpredictable ways. The tragedy becomes even more intense when a parent is involved in it.
The author of this book lost his eight-year old son, Owen, during a rafting trip on the Green River. The father and the son were navigating the rapids using a ‘duck boat’ which met with an accident, “an unfortunate alignment of circumstances.” The father was saved and the little boy died. Pain “mixed with regret, bewilderment, disappointment – and guilt in all guises,” writes the author. “Guilt for signing the release and letting him board the ducky. Guilt for not bringing Owen home. Guilt for failing to uncover new memories. Guilt for allowing sorrow to overshadow Owen....”
The book is an exercise to deal with the sorrow as well as the guilt feeling. It took a long while for the family to come to terms with the tragedy. The author had to come to terms with the tragedy as well as his role in it. He did much research on people who lost a child and how they dealt with the loss. The research was extended to related topics such as grief and children, the Holocaust, and the Green River. The author is a historian by profession and the book has an academic feel in many places. However, the agony endured by the author and the other family members is palpable on every page.
Death of a child can be a spiritual challenge for the parents. The affliction can be used for personal growth. That is what the author and his wife did. The book shows us how they did it.
Soon after the loss of his son, the author also lost his father who was suffering from cancer. The chapters dealing with the father’s last days make us think about the significance of dying with dignity.
Disaster Falls is not merely a book about death and grief. It is about coping with a personal tragedy and accepting it. It is about how a personal tragedy can enhance personal growth.
PS. I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.