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By: Patricia Ann Chaffee

Martha Whitmore HickmanHealing After LossThis is a story about time and loss and about those who inspire us. It is a look at Healing After Loss – Daily Meditations for Working Through Grief, (Avon Books 1994) by Martha Whitmore Hickman.

As a writer and previously as a reporter, I have had the opportunity to interview more people in the past ten plus years than I can count. I love to hear people’s stories because we all have one, each as interesting as the next. I’ve been interviewing a lot of widows and widowers lately for Pathfinder, and on countless occasions people you’ve read about in other issues, have told me about one book that helped them survive during their most difficult times. It’s not uncommon to hear about different books that people find useful, but to hear the same title repeatedly moving people, was fascinating to me. I had to get a copy and I did. It was Martha Whitmore Hickman’s, Healing After Loss – Daily Meditations for Working Through Grief. I thumbed through it. It’s not really the kind of book that you read like a novel but rather it is to be used serendipitously and randomly, opening to whatever page you are meant to see. It’s also dated if you feel inclined to read it chronologically throughout the year, as there are meditations for each day.

I found it to be a classic for all time. A chunky little book filled to overflowing with wisdom and comfort, encouragement and hope. Not from a superficial, Pollyanna place but from a deeply understanding place. Each little page has thought provoking quotes from brilliant minds like Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen, May Sarton and Alfred Tennyson, and from texts of the Holy Bible and the Bhagavad Gita and so much more from poets, philosophers, writers. The quote is followed by Martha’s anecdotes and words of wisdom written by someone who clearly understood the meaning of grief. At the bottom of each page is a line or two of affirmation.

The book sat on my desk for some time as I tried to find Martha, hoping to interview her to hear firsthand, what compelled her to write this book, that has had such powerful impact on those who are grieving any loss. The introduction in the book told me that she had lost a 16 year old daughter to a horseback riding accident. I know that was the impetus for much of her writing but I wanted to know more, how in her own pain, she was able to dig down so deep to tap into something within herself that could be such a soothing balm for others.

My research, which I’ve always thought was pretty thorough, kept leading me to dead ends. This prolific, award winning writer of personal essays, fiction and children’s books and even a memoir as recent as 2011 was nowhere to be found. My research continued and I even reached out to her publisher to see if they could connect me. No response. I knew she grew up in Massachusetts and had lived in Tennessee. I learned that she was married to Hoyt Hickman and had children and grandchildren, and by now was in her 80’s.

Then, one day, I stumbled across some new information that led me to an address and phone number in California. I was so excited. I’d found the elusive Martha Whitmore Hickman. By now I’d seen her smiling photo on line and felt like I knew her, between reading her meditations and looking for her on line whenever time allowed. When I write a book review, I try to seek out the author to hear their story, to see what inspires them and why they do what they do. I was finally ready to hear about how this extraordinary little book had come to be. But I’m a busy woman. More time passed as other stories took priority.

Then one snowy Connecticut afternoon I dialed that California number. The phone was disconnected. Hmmm, I thought. And for some reason I can’t explain, I Googled one last time, “Martha Whitmore Hickman obituary,” and there she was. I had finally found her. She’d passed away January 17, 2015, while her book sat on my desk, at the age of 89. Read it. You won’t be disappointed and you’ll likely find a place for it on your bedside table where so many copies find a home. I hope Martha’s Husband has one.

Available on Amazon.com at Healing After Loss: Daily Meditations For Working Through Grief.

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