Memoir 2.3

The final section of Sanford’s Waking, was probably the most heart-wrenching to read. I expected him to discover healing through the practice of yoga (albeit with some major set-backs like a broken femur bone; I still don’t understand how that happened.) and for him to rediscover a connection between his mind and body, but I did not expect the experience he had with his sons. I guess part of me was like the doctors at the beginning of the novel. I wanted him to succeed, to overcome adversity, and to have a happily ever after ending. But the entire message of his story goes in a different direction, and as a result the way he was able to cope with such a tragic loss is admirable to me.

Before diving into that section though, I’d like to comment about something I found particularly interesting. In this part of the novel he experienced body memories of the accident and the trauma he lived through. I’ve never thought of my body as having memory, even though everyone experiences them in greater or lesser degrees. My body has remembered the strenuous activity of a cross country race or a particularly intense yoga session; and people in car accidents experience whiplash for years after the accident. It points to the complexity of the connection between the mind and the body; memory is multi-dimensional and records not only our thoughts and sights, but our smells and the aches and movements of our body. When I took piano and could play a song without looking at my fingers, my instructors told me it was because of “muscle memory.” There is a consciousness in our bodies that is every bit as active as our minds, and it is good to be reminded of that so we can treat our bodies with care.

The gut-wrenching part of the third part of Sanford’s memoir is not his discovery of yoga or his broken femur bone, but rather the births of his son’s William and Paul. I must admit, I felt as if I had been thrown a curve-ball when I read that William was first disabled. When he died in utero only a month before birth, I actually cried. I cannot even begin to imagine what I would do if I was carrying twins and had one of them die so late in the pregnancy. Of all of the traumas he experienced, this was most certainly the most devastating, because it is a trauma of the heart. What should have been a happily ever after became an ending mixed with sadness as much as happiness.

Sanford’s insights about this experience are staggeringly moving. This passage is particularly powerful: “We are living, loving creatures, traveling through both life and death. Our drive for light permeates even the dark. In this moment, I have never been so in love with life…and so unafraid of dying. Life and death are not opposites. They are partners in the same belly.” (238) It is an interesting quality of human nature to fear and vilify the unknown. Death, silence, and darkness are all things what human being struggle to make sense of, but they are also an integral part of our existence. Tragedy and joy, life and death, silence and sound, darkness and light; all are halves of a whole, and are intimately woven together in our lives. Recognizing this truth allows us to let go of our fear of the unknown and embrace life.

The is a powerful memoir, beautifully written, surprisingly relatable, and stunningly insightful. I really enjoyed reading this book, and learned many valuable lessons that I hope with help guide me from now on.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Anne Schultz
    Nov 30, 2011 @ 22:48:44

    powerful responses to a powerful book. I also cried when william died.


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