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Mick...Send Me A Butterfly
Written by Lorraine Grennan
Revised edition published by Love of Books Self Publishing.
Death is always disturbing. Even if the person has passed away peacefully after a long and productive life. Even when it is of someone one knows only slightly. Even if it is the death of a loved fictional character. Even if it is someone one has never heard of before. What makes us react this way to a death? Why are we touched by the finger of sorrow even if we have not directly suffered this loss? Isn't it the realisation of our own mortality?
The everyday news items about deaths in the newpaper disturb me - I make it a point never to read these pages early in my day, especially if it is the death of a child or a violent death that is featured.
So when it is a dear one whose death we are dealing with, it can be devastating. And when it is a parent who has to deal with a child's death, it becomes doubly so. Somehow we expect to die before our children. It is, we feel, the natural order of things. After all, life goes on in a forward direction. Children are born of our bodies, and are our hope for the future. A way for nature to ensure that we do not disappear into nothingness. A way to keep a part of us alive on this beautiful earth. In a strange way, we become immortal through our children, and our children's children, and so on. So, it is terrible indeed, when things go the other way. When a parent has to see the suffering of a child, and the relentless descent into the big void of death. Whether it comes suddenly or after a long and debilitating illness.
Lorraine Grennan's book, 'Mick...Send Me A Butterfly' is a memoir of her son Michael Stewart Grennan's fight with Chronic Myloid Leukaemia. He was diagnosed with the disease on 29th August 1981, and passed away on 23rd March 1983 at just 20 years of age - a period of one year and seven months of facing the monster. Today, 23rd March 2013, would be the 30th anniversary of his death, and this is a tribute to his fighting spirit. One that has touched many lives that came in contact with his courage and forbearance.
At 18, Mick was your regular teenager, having a girlfriend and a job at a gas station, plenty of friends and a loving family. He had his whole life in front of him, when the disease crept up on him unbeknownst. It was diagnosed after a series of tests for symptoms that seemed like arthritis. It was a punch in the solar plexus, to put it mildly. Ms Grennan writes about how they all coped with the reality of impending death in their own ways. It was devastating, and something that they never could come to terms with. At such a time, Mick showed a maturity beyond his years and became the source of his family's strength, preparing them for his death and the time after it, in unusually thoughtful ways that Ms Grennan has put down with complete honesty of emotion. It does not fail to move, and I had to put the book away at times to bring my own emotions to order. She recounts the shock, the denial, the coping with the treatment (with its own consequences) and the bewilderment of a layperson thrust into the unending medical visits. She speaks of her faith and that of her family and friends, that gave them the strength to cope with the inevitable - both before and after Mick's passing away.
Ms Grennan also writes very honestly about the feelings of loss, guilt, and helplessness that overcame her and the other members of her family after Mick passed away. How every person grieves in a different way, a way very personal to that person, the way they perceive their loss, the way they deal with it. The way that coping with grief does not have a timeline, and that even after we learn to let go, the grief is still very real for the bereaved person. And that healing does come, in its own way to each person.
After his passing away, Ms Grennan was introduced to The Compassionate Friends, a group started by similarly bereaved parents, and it helped her deal with her feelings of grief. Intense feelings that she often wondered about- if they were normal. Ms Grennan has since worked extensively as a volunteer in its chapter in her hometown in New South Wales, Australia. Her work since has helped thousands of bereaved people come to terms with their loss.
This memoir, which is written in almost a diary-like fashion, draws the reader into their lives. A peek into the extraordinary courage of ordinary people. It has been a privilege.