I’ll See You Again by Jackie Hance and Janice Kaplan is not the kind of book I pick up to read. I’m very selective about the type of memoirs I read and I usually steer away from tragedy-to-triumph stories. I know that seems weird for someone who sees God’s redemptive work in the strangest of people and places. Consider it another one of my qwerks.
I was especially hesitant to read this particular memoir. The unthinkable tragedy was in the headlines when it occurred in July 2009. Often headline tragedies become sensationalized memoirs of shock and awe. I really dislike that kind of drama.
I’ll See You Again wasn’t like that at all. It is a raw, intimate account of how a mother encounters the unimaginable loss of all three of her daughters in a traffic accident caused by her sister-in-law. It is grief in all of its despair and disruption for Jackie, her husband, and their family. It is bears witness to the lifeline of support their friends commit to over a period of years. It exposes the flaws and vulnerabilities of people and acknowledges the tensions in the unknowable and unanswerable. It is heartfelt and heart-wrenching at the same time … just like grief.
What makes this book so powerful is its reminder of the depth and extent of the grief process. Grief is not the same for everyone. While there may be stages of grief, it is really more a process, and a messy process at that. Relationships are difficult under the best of circumstances and become extremely threatened or challenged during grief. This book reminds us that even the bonds of love fracture, and can still withstand, devastating grief.
I’ll See You Again is intense. But then so is grief. Sometimes by experiencing it through someone else’s story we can tuck away some insight that will be useful in our future.