A father’s deeply felt memoir of witnessing his son’s final months and grieving at the young man’s death.
In April 2005, Lischer (The End of Words: The Language of Reconciliation in a Culture of Violence, 2005, etc.), a Lutheran minister and faculty member at Duke Divinity School, received a phone call from his 33-year-old son Adam telling him that his melanoma had returned. What the author did not know was that in little more than three months, Adam would be dead. Stories of battling cancer are commonplace, as are stories of bereavement; what gives this story a twist is the religious angle. When Lischer’s son learned of his diagnosis, he became more heavily involved in the Catholic Church. He and his pregnant Catholic wife adopted a series of daily rituals that involved lighting candles, attending Mass, praying and reading the Bible. As his son’s faith was increasing, Lischer’s was drying up: “I saw my son…motionless, serene as a sanded statue, and lost in a realm I could not enter.” The author compares his experiences with his dying son to walking the Stations of the Cross, but here the reminders of pain are more mundane—visits to labs, meetings with oncologists, etc. By June, Lischer was searching for a cemetery, and in July, he was camping out in his son’s hospital room listening for his last breath. After Adam’s death, the author came to see grief as a series of dark caves of longing and despair that one repeatedly falls into, not unlike the anguish of a parent watching over a terminally ill child. The book ends on a somewhat brighter note with the baptism of Adam’s daughter.
A fond view of a father-son relationship and a loving tribute from a minister to a son who chose a different spiritual path in his life and to his death.