A Balm in Gilead, part 2

Gilead is a book from the point of view of a character named John Ames who is old and dying. The whole story is him writing to his very young son about life. This series of posts is about the notes my own father made in a copy of the novel before his passing. For more background, feel free to read the past posts in this series:

A Balm in Gilead, part 1

I opened the novel to begin writing and out fell the bookmark my father used while reading Gilead. It was a thank you note from me that I don’t remember writing. It says this:


Happy birthday! We love you so much and are grateful for everything you do for us. Thank you for watching Katelyn this whole week. It was so good spending time with you. We’ll have a lot of fun during the Walk for Kids tomorrow on your B-day!

Love always,

Steve, Mojo, and Smiley

(He called my daughter “Smiley” when she was a baby.)

It’s funny how these things happen. Life has a way of bringing moments back to your consciousness. When you lose someone you love this tends to happen often. I didn’t plan on writing about anything other then the novel, but the bookmark seems fitting.

On page 6 my dad underlined this:

Even now, when a flutter of my pulse makes me think of final things, I find myself losing my temper, because a drawer sticks or because I’ve misplaced my glasses. I tell you so that you can watch for this in yourself.

This totally makes sense. My dad was in a lot of pain, stemming back to a fall he had in 2008, which I mentioned previously. It seems natural that this would resonate with him.

I’m like him in this way. He was, and I am, good during big catastrophes: sicknesses, accidents, deaths. But we both handle “stuck drawers” and “misplaced glasses” horribly. It’s not something I’m proud of, but it’s true.

I can see him reading the above excerpt and possibly chuckling to himself. He thought about the end all the time. I know this because he always talked about it. Reading of another man contemplating death, and becoming frustrated because of it, would have probably been something he associated with.

And that last part, “I tell you so that you can watch for this in yourself,” I can’t say for sure he wanted me to watch for it, but I certainly know that I need to be on the lookout.

13 thoughts on “A Balm in Gilead, part 2

  1. Steve, thank you for sharing from such a vulnerable place. I really enjoy reading about your personal life (maybe it’s because I’m a girl, I don’t know). Anyways, thanks … I can’t help but reflect on my relationship with my dad as I read your blog. Love you all! MB

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