by Alice G. Miller
Create Space Independent Publishing Platform, Amazon.com. 133 pages
REVIEWED BY STEPHEN MCCUTCHAN
When you hear “I know just how you feel,” you know that that person does not know how you are feeling. No one knows just how you feel. What we want is someone who will listen deeply and empathize. This is not an easy skill. The more tragic the source of the pain, the more difficult it is. The closer you get to hearing another person’s pain, the closer you get to sacred ground.
“All that Bright Light” is an invitation to walk on that sacred ground. In poetic language, a grandmother and skilled psychotherapist invites us to walk with her through the horror of her granddaughter’s violent murder. Daily we are confronted with the violence of our world. One of the terrors that parents and grandparents live with is that such violence can easily touch someone they love. Yet such violence often seems distant or even fictional. As I read Alice’s lyrical account of what she experienced, I kept wanting it to be a piece of fiction while all the time knowing that this was a real story. Alice invites us to share her deep grief as she tries to make sense out of our most feared nightmare — the violent death of a family member. The story is intimate and painful, but also powerful and healing. Each step of the way, you find yourself wondering how you would have responded.
Why would you want to read such a story? First, because you are invited to share the experience of another that will help you touch your own humanity. While the story touches you at the point of your own fears, it also reveals the noble strength of our human souls. Second, this story will help you be more sensitive to the pain of your neighbor. While you do not know how someone feels in such a tragedy, the story can sharpen your capacity to listen to another’s suffering. Many churches are involved in Stephen’s Ministry, a program that trains congregation members to be supportive of others in times of need. People involved in this ministry could benefit from reading this book and talking about it with their companions. Third, Alice has reminded each of us that there is healing in storytelling. As you see her try to make sense out the unimaginable horror that touched her family, you begin to sense a certain order begin to triumph over chaos. That is why listening is a healing act.
It is a small book and can be read quickly. Whether it be a pastors’ support group, a book club, a training session for Stephen’s ministers or just a concerned group of Christians, you will benefit from exploring it with others. The fact that this book is self-published by CreateSpace demonstrates the revolution that has taken place in the publishing world. Now with the availability of print on demand technology, when one has a story to tell, as Alice Miller did, it can be done inexpensively in print and electronically. Quality stories like this one can now be shared.
STEPHEN MCCUTCHAN is author of 10 books, including the mystery novel “A Star and a Tear” and the recently published three-volume series “Healthy Clergy Make Healthy Congregations.”