A Memoir of Love and Loss: Wish You Were Here

My inspiration to begin writing a blog is a woman I first encountered a decade ago on the interwebs. When I first read Amy Welborn at In Between Naps two things struck me. First, she was prolific! My God that woman wrote. And wrote. And wrote. I don’t know how she found the time. But more than that she was wonderful. To write that much and keep it interesting, entertaining and thought-provoking? I didn’t think it was possible, but there it was right in front of me each day, or several times a day. Remember, this was over ten years ago. Blogs were still a relatively new thing for most of America and only beginning to come into their own. I enjoyed reading Amy and she became a friendly voice to sit with each morning over coffee when I’d read her during a morning break in my day. Because of her I discovered more voices such as Jeff Miller over at The Curt Jester, and Elizabeth Scalia aka The Anchoress. I still read both regularly and you can find them on my blog roll to the right. She was the inspiration for what a few of us who own Catholic blogs refer to as the Welborn Protocol when it comes to blog comments. I admit I’ve never had to enact it as I don’t garner too many comments. But by golly if I ever grow big enough I will.

About a year or so after I started reading Amy at IBN she started a new blog named Open Book. This is where I thought Amy really grew as did her audience. At IBN I witnessed the care and interaction that occurred between Amy and her readers in the comboxes. At Open Book it progressed even more. Amy was having a conversation with us instead of just talking at us. Her family was growing and she continued to author many Catholic books for her publisher Our Sunday Visitor Press.

In 2007 she made the decision to change again and began to blog at Charlotte Was Both. While her first two blogs were the reason I decided to begin my first blog over at Blogger, it was CWB that cemented my desire to begin anew at WordPress. Her husband, Michael Dubruiel was himself a prolific author and blogger. I found myself reading him as well. While I was writing a series of forty 1-2 page bulletin inserts on the Mass I used one of his books as a resource. Michael and I exchanged a few emails during this time as I had a few questions for him. He was more than courteous and helpful.

Three years ago today Michael died. His obituary is here. It was sudden, unexpected, and occurred while he was exercising at his gym. Within seconds on that fateful morning he was gone at the age of 50. Amy had recently left Charlotte Was Both to begin writing for a brief time at BeliefNet. Her pieces about Michael’s death are archived here. From her example I learned many things and cried many times along the way. I’d never met either of them, but I felt as if I knew them personally. Thus is the power of the internet and our ability to connect in a shared humanity.

Next week Amy’s latest, and perhaps most personal book will be released. It is a book I’ve had on my wish list for months when I first learned about it late last summer. Wish You Were Here: Travels Through Loss and Hope is a story about Amy’s trip to Sicily with three of her children, taken five months after Michael’s death.

Her journey through city and countryside, small town and ancient ruins, opens unexpected doors of memory and reflection, a pilgrimage of the heart and an exploration of the soul. It is an observant and wry memoir and travelogue, intensely personal yet speaking to universal experiences of love and loss.

Along the narrow roads and hairpin turns, the narrative reveals the beauty of the ordinary and the commonplace and asks stark questions about how we fill the empty places that a loved one leaves behind. It is a meditation on the possibility of faith, one that is unflinching, uncompromising, and altogether unsentimental when confronted by the ultimate test of belief. This book is not only a well-told memoir, but a testimony to the truth that love is stronger than death.

There is a Kindle version as well so I haven’t decided the form in which I’ll purchase this book. I’m in between books right now but have long planned to read Amy’s when released. In the interim I’m re-reading Henri Nouwen’s The Return of the Prodigal Son. By next week I’ll be reading along with Amy and her children and visiting with old friends and bittersweet memories.


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