A former communications professor and clinical psychologist takes readers on a journey of death, grief, and acceptance in this memoir.
Hocker (co-author: Interpersonal Conflict, 2013) grew up in a close-knit family that moved frequently due to her father’s work as a minister. During the tumultuous decades of the 1950s to ’70s, his support of civil rights and opposition to the Vietnam War often made his tenures at conservative churches brief. Although the author’s parents did not approve of her two divorces from men they had grown to love, they supported her choices. The death of her brother Ed’s new wife from lung cancer in 2002 was distressing but proved how caring the Hockers were as a unit. The discovery of multiple lesions on the brain of the author’s sister, Janice, in 2004 was devastating to the whole family but especially to Hocker, who had always had a close relationship with her younger sibling. As the author floundered in her sorrow, her mother faced a heart-rending cancer diagnosis. Hocker—again—left her practice, husband, and Montana home to share her mother’s final weeks. The author and Ed’s attempts to help their father adjust to life as a widower were unsuccessful, causing the clan to lose a fourth member in just over two years. Designated as the family archivist (due to interest, not professional training) even before the cluster of tragedies, Hocker sorted through belongings, stored at her parents’ cabin “Shalom,” close to an old ghost town and cemetery called Tincup, as she attempted to overcome her grief. The structure of this volume is somewhat confusing, as the beginning provides only slightly relevant information about the ending of the author’s first marriage. But as the tale transitions to the core of the memoir, the absorbing love stories—while heartbreaking—should carry readers along. Hocker skillfully presents the narrative of dying, managing to make it quite beautiful. A long interlude concerning family history and genealogy, while intriguing, disturbs the flow of the account and is better suited to a different narrative. But overall, the author, perhaps drawing on her professional background, makes a disturbing chain of events touching and ultimately uplifting. Despite its unusual structure and inherent sadness, this book is well worth reading.
An inspiring and moving account of a caring family.