Loss Is Loss Is Loss: A Book Review Of Rare Bird

As soon as Anna Whiston-Donaldson’s book, Rare Bird: A Memoir of Loss and Love arrived in my mailbox I started reading it. I literally ripped it out of the manila envelope it arrived in as I walked up to my house and started with chapter one entitled, You’re Braver than You Think.

Something stopped me.

I knew full well what the book was about; Anna’s son Jack died in a flash flood while playing with neighborhood friends in the rain. It is a tragedy that is almost inconceivable to consider. Parents should never have to bury their children. Ever.

There was a part of me that wondered if maybe I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to begin such a heavy story, one that was sure to cause me to draw parallels to my own grief and loss and pull me into a depression I didn’t have either the time or inclination to revisit. I wasn’t ready to go to that place in that moment.

grief feels like shame

That was the end of July.

By September, I had somehow successfully managed to avoid reading any reviews on Rare Bird or discussing the book with anyone who had already read it.

I picked it up again and finished two days later, on the third anniversary of Jack’s death. Ironic, right? I e-mailed Anna immediately to tell her how much I loved her memoir, how much I appreciated her tender words, full of wisdom and grace, beauty, love, pain and hope.

reluctant pupil of grief

I wanted her to know that I learned something about grief by reading Rare Bird. I realized that the thing about grief is once you’ve experienced that kind of loss it’s always with you and takes very little to conjure. It could be a quote, a piece of music, a passage in a book, walking by a stranger in the supermarket that smells like someone you lost or simply sharing your grief story with others. It can happen at any time and without any warning.

Through my personal grief journey I have discovered that grief is a tricky beast and everyone experiences it differently. So much of what Anna shares I felt when I lost my parents in a tragic, fluke accident way too soon. As Anna says, “loss is loss is loss”.

Rare Bird isn’t just a memoir. It is a beautifully written handbook for anyone who is grieving, who will grieve, or who will be there for someone who is grieving, but don’t just take my word for it, her book has already been praised by The Washington Post and Publishers Weekly.

Listen to Anna tell you about her book in her own words:

loss is loss is loss

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Seeing Chicago Through A Child’s Eyes

It’s been a month since our mother/son trip to Chicago. What an amazing five days! I have always known Lucas was an extraordinary child but this trip proved it ten times over.

Since his very first airplane ride at only two months old, my son has been a great traveler provided I have his favorite snacks and activities and a full battery on the iPad. This I knew going in to this trip together, but what surprised me was the amount of patience he exhibited as we waited. We spent a lot of time waiting, from a two hour delay at the airport and long lines to enter most attractions to Uber cars and taxis, we waded through throngs of people at the breakfast buffet each morning at our hotel and waited for our names to be called at restaurants, we waited for it to stop raining so we could go back outside and have fun, we waited and waited and waited. I have decided my five-year-old has more patience in his entire body than I do in my big toe.

momsontriptochicagoLucas also behaved well throughout our trip and when other children around us were falling apart, kicking, screaming and carrying on and getting reprimanded, he kept it together. He also asked pointed questions about our surroundings, wanted to know everything he could about the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 (it wasn’t because a cow knocked over a lantern, by the way) and the meaning behind the different colors that lit up the skyscrapers at night. Lucas also let me take as many photos as I wanted of both him and the sights.

Chicago is perfect for children and it was a lot of fun seeing my little guy in such a big city. We didn’t walk as much as I would have liked but only because little legs can’t walk very far. We took our time getting from here to there and stopped a lot along the way to shop or eat or meander through a park.

There is so much to do in Chicago and we tackled a lot! From meeting Sue, the best-preserved T. rex on display at the Field Museum, eating stuffed pizza at the famed Giordano’s, running through the water pads at Millennium Park, taking goofy photos at “the Bean”, enjoying incredible views of the city from the 103rd floor of the Sears Tower (now known as Willis Tower), spending hours at the awesome Children’s Museum at Navy Pier and having a lot of down time in our hotel room. We shopped a little (I kind of went nuts at the Nike store) watched very little TV, and talked a lot, mostly about the upcoming school year and how much we missed home and our precious little Lola.

momsontriptochicagoLucas may have dragged me to the Lego store at the beautiful Water Tower Place more than once but I’d buy him all the Lego in the world if I could. I’m grateful for the bonding time I had with my son this summer and look forward to taking an annual summer trip with him. 

Where to next year?

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In A Nutshell

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Lucas and I had a blast in Chicago and I will share more about our first annual mother/son trip, including photos soon, but first I want to acknowledge my FIVE year blogiversary! Just under the wire, I might add as it's almost midnight on the West … [Continue reading]