“There’s no place on the map called ‘Safe,’” a wise therapist friend told me many years ago, and her words came back to me as I read Marie Lawson Fiala’s new book, Letters from a Distant Shore. Her story reminds us how uncertain and unpredictable life is – despite the mighty effort we each expend trying to control our circumstances. How vain we are to think we can protect ourselves and our loved ones from danger, disaster, and death.
Fiala’s story is every mother’s nightmare. She was living her life as wife, mother, and lawyer, just going along in her day-to-day activities as we all do. Everything was fine; life was good; the future looked promising; and Fiala feel safe, secure, and serene. Then in an instant, it wasn’t fine – the unthinkable happened – and her world was turned upside down. On a relaxing Labor Day weekend at home with her family, Fiala’s 13-year-old son Jeremy suffered a massive hemorrhage from a ruptured artery deep in his brain. He crumbled to the floor in a heap, and everything Fiala thought she knew about her life crumbled too.
Her memoir is the powerful tale of a mother’s journey to hell … and back. Her emotional roller coaster of despair, hope, disappointment, fear, confusion, frustration, and back to hope again is a ride none of us ever want to take. But we’re heartened by the grace of Marie Lawson Fiala and her family as she tells us of their adventure together. Warning, gentle reader: Buckle up; it’s a heck of a roller coaster.
Letters from a Distant Shore has all the elements of a riveting motion picture: love, family, disaster, suspense, God, prayer, healing, hope, intensity, and eminently loveable characters. You’ll fall head over heals for young Jeremy as he becomes the sun around which Fiala and her family orbit. He is courageous, intelligent, fun-loving, and boyishly charming. You’ll find yourself rooting for him and his recovery, for he is too sweet a spirit for the world to lose so young. Your heart will be right there with Fiala, as her powerful mom-energy grows exponentially through the trials she endures at the side of her darling boy. And you’ll see the power of prayer and divine healing, as world-wide prayer vigils hold up Jeremy in praise and love. The Bible tells us that not a sparrow falls from the sky without Him knowing about it – and Jeremy is a beautiful and broken sparrow in desperate need of God’s loving, healing embrace.
When you finish the book you’ll want to immediately go find your own kids – or your friends or other loved ones – and hug them. You’ll want to call everyone you hold dear and tell them how much you love them. You’ll make a vow never to take life or loved ones for granted. But of course, that’s a vow you probably won’t keep, because we always slip back into taking our lives, and the lives of those we love, for granted. We’re only human.
Thank you, Marie Lawson Fiala, for reminding me how much I love my own son and how grateful I am that he is whole, healthy, and able-bodied – for today. Thank you for reminding me that I am not in control of my son’s life – or even my own. I’ve heard it said that “life is what happens while you’re busy making plans” and your book reminded me how incredibly true that is. And thank you for reminding me of the power of prayer and gratitude – always available to us, no matter what’s going on in our lives. Thank you for reminding me that life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass … it’s about learning to dance in the rain.