An author shares her struggle to find a meaningful mission after her son is killed in their California hometown.
Poblete (The Oracles, 2006) spent many years as a San Francisco Bay Area newspaper reporter; later she worked with international governments and agencies, addressing issues of climate change and environmental crisis. But her memoir focuses on her physical, emotional, and spiritual journey to overcome the paralyzing grief she endured after her 23-year-old son, Robby, was gunned down in broad daylight. Robby was the 14th of 18 homicides in Vallejo in 2013. As Poblete makes clear early on, she is not interested in giving any space to the four perpetrators; this story is about Robby and how his joyful embrace of life inspired her to follow his path. Once she was able to drag herself out of bed, Poblete, a Roman Catholic, began reading Robby’s books on Buddhism and went to a Buddhist monastery for a three-day retreat. Carrying readers through the two years following Robby’s death, she emotionally details her sorrow and rage until she discovered a cause—fighting for and overseeing the creation of a singular gun buyback program in Vallejo. Of her determination to move forward, she writes, “I had a clear decision to make: Wake up each morning fueled by hate and revenge, or wake up fueled by love and forgiveness.” Poblete alternates between heartfelt reflections on moments in Robby’s life and engrossing recollections of her road to recovery, offering a vivid and succinct articulation of the lasting experience of grief: “You remember the call you got. You think of the shock that will ensue, and the long, lingering pain that will ebb and flow, like the phantom pain of a lost limb.” Yet her commitment to the Robby Poblete Foundation, which ensures that a portion of the melted-down guns is turned into art and the remainder donated to welding workshops for disadvantaged teenagers, allows her to conclude: “I felt and continue to feel profound sadness and a deep loss. But I also feel gratitude, happiness and even hope.”
An eloquent message of comfort directed toward fellow travelers.