It was years ago, but I still remember waking up to the phone, telling me about my sister's collapse. I drove across town to see her, but she was brain-dead by the time I arrived at the hospital, and her heart stopped beating within minutes of taking her off the machines that kept her organs functioning for 24 hours.
I remember the pain and the guilt and the anger and the confusion. I didn't know for what I was feeling guilty or at whom to direct my anger, but I felt it all.
James Agee captures these emotions beautifully in his powerful novel A Death in the Family - the story of a family dealing with the sudden and unexpected death of a father / husband / brother / son, who is killed instantly in an automobile accident, while returning from a visit to his own ill father.
Agee takes us back to the family before the death - showing us both the mundane and the memorable.
He takes us through the painful uncertainty experienced by the family, after they know of the accident, but before they know whether he survived.
He takes us through the heartbreaking trial of telling his children their father will never come home again.
He takes us through the pain and the anger and the guilt and the denial of dealing with unexpected loss.
He takes us along the dynamics of the family as they try to support one another and the helplessness of knowing that, in many ways, they cannot.
He takes us into the minds of all the survivors in the family and it rings very true to those of us who have lost a loved one - either suddenly or slowly over time.
A Death in the Family is light on plot, but heavy on emotions. Events just happen and Agee dives deep into the thoughts and emotions of the survivors. It rang true for me and brought back memories of my own lost family members.