Non-Fiction Review: Here If You Need Me
Title: Here If You Need Me: A True Story
Author: Kate Braestrup
Publication Info: Little Brown & Co., 2007. 211 pages
Source: Gift from a friend
Ten years ago, Kate Braestrup and her husband Drew were enjoying the life they shared together. They had four young children, and Drew, a Maine state trooper, would soon begin training to become a minister as well. Then early one morning Drew left for work and everything changed. On the very roads that he protected every day, an oncoming driver lost control, and Kate lost her husband.
Stunned and grieving, Kate decided to continue her husband's dream and became a minister herself. And in that capacity she found a most unusual mission: serving as the minister on search and rescue missions in the Maine woods, giving comfort to people whose loved ones are missing, and to the wardens who sometimes have to deal with awful outcomes. Whether she is with the parents of a 6-year-old girl who had wandered into the woods, with wardens as they search for a snowmobile rider trapped under the ice, or assisting a man whose sister left an infant seat and a suicide note in her car by the side of the road, Braestrup provides solace, understanding, and spiritual guidance when it's needed most.
Here if You Need Me is the story of Kate Braestrup's remarkable journey from grief to faith to happiness. It is dramatic, funny, deeply moving, and simply unforgettable, an uplifting account about finding God through helping others, and the tale of the small miracles that occur every day when life and love are restored.
For my regular readers, it is probably obvious why my friend gifted me this book. In addition to the parallels to my situation (though thank heavens I have adult children, not small ones), there is the Maine connection--my husband and spent about 4 or 5 months out of the last 2 years in Maine.
I was taken aback at first by the religious aspect of the book, but Braestrup is a Unitarian Universalist minister, not one to ram religion down anyone's throat (that may make her perfect for a position like hers, as chaplain to the Maine (game) Warden's Service). I can't agree with everything she says on that front, but her blunt explanations of what she does think and feel were at the least food for thought. More to the point, for me, were her thoughts on grief and loss, and on making a life after a catastrophic loss. On that score, I think she nailed most of it.
I'll just share one quote: "Death alters the reality of our lives; the death of an intimate changes it completely. No part of my life, from my most ethereal notions of God to the most mundane detail of tooth brushing, was the same after Drew died. Life consisted of one rending novelty after another" (p. 202). She also talks early on about the things you can do while crying, and I can relate, even as she made me laugh.
There is another aspect to the book: the nature of her work, and the reason she does it, and the Wardens do it. There is a strong recognition that for some of us, nature is the place of healing, maybe at times the only place where a person can be made whole again. A lot of what she writes about the Maine woods, in summer or winter, resonates.
I don't agree with everything Braestrup says. But I think this is a helpful book for those who have suffered a loss--and maybe even more for those who wonder how to relate to someone who has suffered a catastrophic loss.
If any of what I said above strikes a chord with you, give this a read. I will note that I made a start a little too soon, and had to set the book aside for a couple of months. There was too much in the beginning, especially, that matched my own pain too well.
FTC Disclosure: I was given this book as a gift, and received nothing from the writer or publisher for my honest review. The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
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