Parents die. At any age, the loss of a parent marks a profound and often overlooked transition in life. When the parent leaves a young child to grow up without guidance, nurturing, goading, and love, the event becomes a landmark, a defining moment.
When authors Leslie Simon and Jan Johnson Drantell learned of their common experience of losing a parent at a young age, they set out to discover the experiences and effects that unite those who have lived through this same signal event. "Every tragedy has its before and after," they write. "One day a child's life feels normal, the next it feels as if the world has torn apart."
This is a rent that can never be repaired, a wound that despite the passage of time and the coming of age never truly heals. In A Music I No Longer Heard, Simon and Drantell have collected the voices of seventy men and women who share this poignant life's journey. "Even three or four years later," the noted filmmaker Ken Burns remembered, "my wish would be that my mother would come back. I think I just submerged the fact that she had died."
As life progresses, the authors point out, every new experience is filtered through the lens of loss. The dead parent remains a vibrant presence in these lives: "My relationship with my father doesn't seem finished, or sealed." Or in the words of another, "I feed myself with memories of my mother. I think about her and it is just a wonderful feeling."
Most of all, these children of loss experience adulthood differently, always compensating in some way when choosing a mate or a career, in developing the ability to trust and to love, and in the willingness to take risks and live life to the fullest. "Maybe my dad's death, in some small way," one woman wonders, "helped me to wake up and see what the world is, what the world could offer."
What emerges from these stories is a moving portrait of the many and various ways that the death of a parent shapes one's life. A Music I No Longer Heard will be therapeutic for those who have lost a parent and will enable those who have not to understand the complex emotions that surround this all too common experience.