For those who don't know me and haven't heard the news, I'll admit it here: I have loved John Ritter my entire life. Some of my earliest memories include watching Three's Company with my mom, and although I didn't get most of the jokes and inuendos until years later, Jack and his antics had me rolling from day one. I was obsessed, and credit Mr. Ritter (along with my grandparents and mom who are all downright hilarious in their own right) with being much of my comedic inspiration in life. I have followed his career religiously, catching sitcoms, movies, and interviews whenever possible. The fact that I have a child named Jack is no coincidence. I was even watching a Three's Company marathon in the hospital while I was in labor with Henry. Laughter truly is the best medicine, and despite all I have been through, I still agree with that statement. That, and: sometimes you have to laugh just to keep from crying.
When I read about the release of this book, I knew I needed to read it. The last few chapters of the book hit closest to home as they detailed the events of the days surrounding John's death and then the emotions his wife faced afterwards. It's the first book I've ever read about grief and loss that I could have written myself. It's refreshing to me to read about other people who try to laugh and live through their pain. So many books I've read about bereaved parents talk about people who could not listen to music ever again, or could not bring themselves to laugh for at least ten years, etc. I will not judge them, because every grief process is different, but I truly felt like I was either defective or in denial. It turns out I am neither (the first being more debatable than the second). She spoke about how much heavier she felt after John's death. About how gravity seemed to have a greater pull on her, which is not unlike my post about The Weight of Grief. That alone gave me comfort. She went on to describe her grief process in ways that were nearly identical to mine. The trudging forward, despite wanting to curl up and cry. The days when we let ourselves do just that. The hope with which we look to the future, and ways we try to keep the memory of our loved ones - in her case a husband, in mine, a son - alive.
Amy wrote, "My life now is not what I expected when John and I fell in love. It's not what I intended, nor what I was creating. Gravity took the life I imagined and added its own spin. The struggle is accepting that fact and still finding beauty and meaning in what remains."
She also included in her book a portion of a letter that John wrote to his daughter Carly, two years (to the day) before he died. In it, he quotes Thornton Wilder's famous novel The Bridge Over St. Luis Re. In his letter, John was relating the quote to the attacks on the Word Trade Center (the letter was written the day of the attacks, September 11, 2001. He died two years later on September 11, 2003, which also happened to be his daughter Stella's fifth birthday). The excerpt reads:
But soon we will die, and all memories of those five will have left Earth, and we ourselves shall be loved for awhile and forgotten. But the love will have been enough; all those impulses of love return to the love that made them. Even memory is not necessary for love. There is a land of the living in a land of the dead and the bridge is love. The only survival, the only meaning.
Beautiful, isn't it?
I loved reading about John and his family. Like so many others, I always felt like he was a part of my own family. I was surprised to learn that he could not cook. *grin* I guess the naivete of childhood had engrained the idea of Jack Tripper going to cooking school equating to John Ritter learning as well. I love that his family has become so active in informing others about aortic aneurysms and dissection, even lending the family name to the "Ritter Rules", a list of guidelines about the disease. It reminds me in many ways of how active my husband has become in the world of primary immune deficiencies. The world has lost some precious boys here, but in their absense has gained advocates for some very worthy causes and hopefully in doing so has saved several other people from the same fate.