Christian Book Reviews, Author Interviews, Excerpts

Author's Vivid Personal Account Speaks to Widows, Widowers

  • Rev. Austin Miles AgapePress
  • 2006 6 Jun
Author's Vivid Personal Account Speaks to Widows, Widowers

Title:  "The Tender Scar:  Life After the Death of a Spouse"
Author:  Richard L. Mabry
Publisher:  Kregel

The most gut-wrenching experience in life is to lose a spouse. The only person who can actually know the depth of that feeling is one who has gone through the ordeal. And the best person to counsel a survivor is the one who has been there, done that, and managed to go on with life. Richard L. Mabry, author of the just-published book, "The Tender Scar:  Life After the Death of a Spouse" (Kregel, June 2006), is just that person.

A man deeply in love with his wife, Cynthia, he had built his entire life around her. They were planning a happy retirement together. Even after three years of "going steady" and then 40 years of marriage, they were still on their honeymoon.

When she unexpectedly died of a stroke in September 1999, he was as devastated as any man could be. First he had to face whether or not to pull the plug on the life-support equipment.

Then he had to deal with getting rid of her personal things – what to keep, what not to keep. Should he move or stay in the home he shared with her? What about the wedding rings? What about "starting a new life"?  And if so, for what purpose?

During his grieving time he dealt with every feeling, question, and anxiety that everyone else who has lost a spouse will immediately identify with and say, "Yes, that is exactly how I feel."

Richard Mabry had been advised to keep a journal following Cynthia's death, an activity which was not only cathartic but also very useful for his own recovery. Some of the journal entries were in the form of personal letters addressed to his beloved wife. He also sent e-mails to his children, friends, and his pastor that he shares with us in the book.

Mabry, a physician, has a natural instinct to help others and felt that he should share what he learned, how he recovered, and the mistakes he made, such as inadvertently building a shrine to his wife and trying to live her life for her.

He describes his own emotions, the good and the bad, the highs and the lows, and asked himself questions like, "When will this end?" or "Is it normal to feel this way?" or "What have other people done about this?" And how do you pray when prayer seemed unanswered and the only thing you can pray is, "Why Lord?" He managed to make it through that – and he shows us what he learned.

Even though Dr. Mabry is a recognized professional, he did not just simply knock out this book. He first went to a Christian Writers Workshop in Glorieta, New Mexico, to fine-tune his writing instincts in order to produce a first-class book. And that he did.  This slim volume is filled with digestible short chapters that open with a topic description followed by an entry from his journal and/or one of the personal e-mails he sent as he was going through each phase of the grieving process.

Next, the coping mechanisms he discovered are detailed. The counsel is solid throughout. Every section of the book ends with a meaningful prayer.

The literary quality entries from his journal and e-mails are so personal that the reader seems to be a part of the inside circle of a man of standing in his community. He is totally transparent as he discloses the wrong turns he took and how he worked out the emotional challenges he faced.

Dr. Mabry's thorough diagnosis doesn't miss one thing. He talks about visiting the grave, remembering an anniversary, and getting through the first holidays after the death.  One chapter is devoted to "Being Open to a Second Chance." Should you ever fall in love again? Could you ever fall in love again? Would it dishonor my spouse?  And he has chapters titled, "Avoiding a Self-Centered Outlook" and "Changing Your Way of Thinking."

The chapter titled "Expanding Your Horizons" ends with a prayer that
begins:  "Loving Father, we don't want things to be different, we want them to be back the way they were. Help us to accept the changes in our lives." And the reader is definitely strengthened by the rest of that prayer. The author articulates the feelings we all have had but may not be able to express. That in itself helps.

Dr. Mabry tells the reader how to reach "the other side of grief," how to "live hopefully ever after" and about learning to live "the new normal." He reminds us that, "For the Christian, the grave is not a monument to death, but the entrance to new life – life eternal."

"The Tender Scar" should be purchased and given to anyone you care about who has lost a spouse. It offers valid, genuine help that well-meaning friends often cannot provide. It also gives the contact information for support groups.  This is also a very valuable book for all pastors, counselors, ministers, and chaplains who so often deal with death issues.

Reading this book will compel you to rethink how important your own husband, wife, or companion is. It will spur you to make every minute count with your spouse even if it means turning off your favorite program in order to pay full attention to a soul mate who at that moment wants to talk.

Richard Mabry said that he wrote this book to bring something good out of something terrible in his life. His goal was accomplished.  Romans 8:28 says: "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose." There is no better example of that famous Scripture.

Thank you, Dr. Mabry, for a fine diagnosis and the advice you give in your book. It couldn't be better.

© 2006 AgapePress.  All rights reserved.  Used with permission.