Mary Echols lost her husband very suddenly and unexpectedly after he suffered a heart attack. And in the aftermath of her loss she was desperate to find out how much of her experience of loss was typical. “I began looking for something I could read that would allow me into someone else’s journey and help me to see that the little things I was stressing over were okay,” she says. “I needed to know that someone else couldn’t change the sheets, that someone else washed her spouse’s clothes with hers, that someone else would open his bathroom drawer that held hairbrush, aftershave, cologne, and breathe in his scent. I needed to have these things validated!” Because she couldn’t find anything, she decided to journal her journey and the result is And Then There Was One: An Emotionally Raw Journey Through Spousal Grief.
The book’s format is what I have found typical for a book that has been written in a time of deep grief in that it is comprised of short thoughts that are often very urgent and very poignant. Some of it is written as if to her husband, some as if to herself, and some as if to an unknown reader like you and me. She recounts returning home to find her husband slumped in his chair and tells, how though she was a seasoned RN, nothing had prepared her for the moment. She tells about the early hours in which, as if in a terrible dream, she went through the motions of calling her children, and the early days in which she cried herself to sleep in a bed that was now cold and empty.
The day comes when she realizes she may be tempted to turn some of her husband’s things in a shrine and resists that temptation. The day comes when she realizes she doesn’t mind making decisions for just one person instead of two and living according to the plan and schedule of only herself. By the end of the book she has emerged from the worst of her sorrows. She may not be healed, but she is healing. She may not be over her sorrows (as if anyone ever is) but she is once again getting on with life.
In my assessment, this book has two notable strengths. The first is related to Echols’s realness. She simply lets us into her journey as she goes through it and is honest about her joys and sorrows, her fears and doubts, her submission and her anger. The second is related to her faith. She writes as a Christian who mourns, but not without hope, and who grieves, but not without a sense of God’s will being expressed even in something as tragic as death. This is a beautiful, hopeful little book and one I’m glad to recommend.