‘Bless the Birds’
Guest Post by Linda C. Wisniewski.
April moon glimmers anew
clear as your eyes
—Bless the Birds
During this pandemic year, I’ve been reading stories of people living through hard times, successfully or not. I am less judgmental these days of how people handled things: My mother during the Depression. My father fighting in the Pacific during WWII. A friend with terminal cancer. Maybe it’s a gift of age, but I crave witnessing the journey over advice for a good life.
In her memoir of grief, author Susan J. Tweit writes eloquently of the two years preceding her husband’s death from brain cancer. She ends each chapter with a haiku about a day from that time. Not at all depressing, the book is the story of their attempt to make the best of each day together, sometimes failing but always holding onto love.
Tweit, a plant biologist, and her husband, Richard Cabe, an economist turned sculptor, are settled into a happy marriage and fulfilling work when one day on a road trip, he sees thousands of birds that are not real. The vision was actually a gift, leading to a quick diagnosis and treatment that probably gave them more time together, time they spent intentionally.
They talked about their love, their marriage, their families and their work. They hoped for a cure. They took a long road trip through the American West, enjoying their natural surroundings—the plants, animals, and yes, birds in each stopping place. It was the kind of road trip where you allow yourselves to take time, to stop when you see something interesting, knowing the destination will still be there at the end.
When the end finally comes, you feel you’ve gotten all you can from the trip.
We can’t escape the scary parts of life, though we surely try. This memoir reminded me that facing them head on, with honesty, acceptance, and love makes meaning of even the worst of circumstances.
Bless the Birds: Living with Love in a Time of Dying by Susan J. Tweit. She Writes Press, 2021.
Reviewer bio: Linda C. Wisniewski is a writer, reader, quilter, knitter and happy trail walker in Bucks County, PA, where she guides people writing memoirs. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.