Friday, April 2, 2010

Making Toast

Wow… I just finished reading “Making Toast” by Roger Rosenblatt. It’s a powerful book.

Did I love it? Not exactly.

At times, and this was only a book of 160 pages, I felt that it was self-indulgent and pointless. I couldn’t imagine why this respected author thought this was a worthy endeavor.

I persevered, though, and am glad I did.

This is the story of Roger and his wife moving into the role of resident (grand)parents to their three young grandchildren when their 38-year old daughter (an accomplished pediatrician) drops dead of an asymptomatic heart defect. [Yes, their father is there, but he can’t do it all alone, and he is a full-time surgeon.]

I normally steer clear of such books, as the inevitable sadness of the layers of loss overwhelms me. But I heard Rosenblatt interviewed on the Diane Rehm Show on NPR, and the story compelled me to read it.

I was mostly interested in the author’s anger with God, and his unwillingness to let that go. I could relate to that, even though my anger with God has abated, and despite the fact that my circumstances were regarding the early death of my father, not, God forbid, a child. The topic fascinates me, because of my own conflicts with God and with religion.

The book is called “Making Toast” because Rosenblatt at first feels helpless to do much for the three bereft children beyond making the breakfast toast. It’s a starting point for him in terms of tasks, but the true foundation of love and trust was already well-established.

I will grant that the lost Amy sounds like a truly extraordinary woman. Not just in the ways that all of us think that our loved ones are amazing. This Amy sounds like someone we all wish we knew, or wish we were. But beyond that, beyond all the small and large observations that her father shares with us, there is this lesson, given by the children’s grief counselor.

“Grief is a life-long process, and not only for the children.” This is a reminder given when the one-year anniversary of Amy’s death has passed, and the author is surprised not to have reached some new plateau of healing. A year is nothing, she tells them. It’s harder now because the permanence is more obvious.

And this, my friends, is a lesson worth learning. This simple lesson made it worth experiencing the pain of the parents, the pain of children, the husband, the siblings, the friends and the colleagues.

These losses are repeated all across America and the rest of the world on a daily basis. Not everyone is an Amy. But you don’t have to be a brilliant doctor to leave a massive hole in the hearts and lives of those you leave behind. Clerks, waitresses, mechanics, engineers, teachers and cops mean every bit as much to their loved ones as Amy did.

So love each other well, and treasure your time together. You may not be rich and famous, but you are the whole world to someone, or more likely, to a lot of someones. Enjoy it, nurture it, and delight in it.


  1. I love your closing words and so agree with them. Cherishing one another and being more compassionate is the cornerstone of all relationships. And yes, delighting in these relationships is essential!

  2. Great post! Very thought provoking.

  3. And I got a lesson from your blog...if you're growing impatient with a book, stick with it. Because sometimes you'll get something from it.

  4. Very nice post. I agree, everyone expects that after a year, things should be much easier. But grief comes and goes ("like a cold," a friend once commented).

  5. Oh nice post. And yes, you always mean something to someone. It's so depressing to hear when people think they have nothing to live for.

  6. and a book reviewer as well! A woman of many talents. Thank you.