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Here’s A Passage That Made Me Cry

While posting about A Death In The Family, I’ve briefly mentioned a few times how this novel really hits home.

Here’s why. I’m 37. I’m married. I have a three-year-old son and my wife is due in September with another little boy.

In the story, Jay Follet, the young father who dies, is 36. He has a six-year-old son, Rufus, and a younger daughter, Catherine.

He leaves behind his wife, Mary, and their two young children.

I think you can understand why this book gets to me. I’ll explain more after this passage.

Here’s the setup.

Aunt Hannah is talking to Jay’s two children, attempting to explain that their father won’t be coming home.

“What is it, Catherine?”

“When’s Daddy coming home?”

“Catherine, he can’t come home,” she said very kindly. “That’s just what all this means, child.” She put her hand over Catherine’s hand and Rufus could see that her chin was trembling. “He died, Catherine,” she said. “That’s what your mother means. God put him to sleep and took him, took his soul away with Him. So he can’t come home…”  …

“Do you see, child?” Catherine was looking at her very seriously. “Of course you don’t, God bless you”; she squeezed her hand. “Don’t every try too hard to understand, child. Just try to understand it’s so. He’d come if he could but he simply can’t because God wants him with Him. That’s all.” She kept her hand over Catherine’s a little while more, while Rufus realized much more clearly than before that he really could not and would not come home again: because of God.

“He would if he could but he can’t,” Catherine finally said, remembering a joking phrase of her mother’s.

Hannah, who knew the joking phrase too, was startled, but quickly realized that the child meant it in earnest. “That’s it,” she said gratefully.

But he’ll come once more, anyway, Rufus realized, looking forward to it. Even if he is asleep.

“What was it you wanted to ask, Rufus?” he heard his aunt say.

He tried to remember and remembered. “What’s kuh, kuhkush, kih…?”

“Con-cus-sion, Rufus. Concus-sion of the brain. That’s the doctor’s name for what happened. It means, it’s as if the brain were hit very hard and suddenly, and joggled loose. The instant that happens, your father was—he…”

“Instantly killed.”

She nodded.

“Then that was that, that put him to sleep.”

“Hyess.”

Not God.”

Catherine looked at him, bewildered.

Man, I can’t imagine having that conversation with young children, and I pray that my wife nor I will never have to.

You can’t truly appreciate that passage out of context, plus I cut a few parts due to length. There’s a lot going on there, including some religious undertones that are important to the plot.

That passage, and just the thought of that conversation—the pure innocence of those two children—brought me to tears. The backstory includes episodes in which the little boy, Rufus, gets bullied by neighborhood children, making the emotion of losing his father—a man he could trust and run to—even more painful.

As a father, this one really hits home.

Crap. I’m depressed now. This truly is one of the most depressing novels on the list, and that’s saying something.

Can we talk about puppies now?

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29 Comments Post a comment
  1. How about kittens ?

    Like

    July 30, 2013
    • sylviemarieheroux #

      Exactly my thought as I scrolled down…

      Like

      July 30, 2013
  2. Having worked as a pediatric nurse, and having had to explain some difficult, life changing things to small kids, I can appreciate this passage in a very small way. It’s definitely heartbreaking.

    Like

    July 30, 2013
    • My wife works in pediatrics as well. So tough.

      Like

      July 30, 2013
  3. Ever since you started writing about “A Death in the Family,” I have been grappling with whether or not I should read it. I am married, no children of my own…but I am that child who wondered what happened to their father, as mine passed away when I was almost 4, leaving behind my mom and us two kids. I do remember a time of confusion: one that you poignantly pointed out in the excerpt you chose above. Jury is still out whether I’ll pick this one up. A lot of water under the bridge, and I am living a fantastic life, but I don’t think you fully recover from the death of a parent when you are a child. You just sort of learn to live with it.

    Like

    July 30, 2013
    • Very well put. I lost my father at nine and understood what was happening at the time. Kids understand much more than adults realize.

      Like

      July 30, 2013
    • I can’t imagine what that’s like. Not sure what to tell you about the book. I’ve got a few more posts about it, so you can figure out what you think. It’s definitely a heavy read.

      Like

      July 30, 2013
  4. Reblogged this on Adithya Entertainment.

    Like

    July 30, 2013
  5. It’s never easy to get one’s head around losing a loved one. But trying to explain to children has to be the worst.

    Like

    July 30, 2013
  6. Louise Allan #

    No, I don’t want to talk about dogs either — we put ours to sleep last week. And I had to explain that to our four kids …

    Like

    July 30, 2013
    • Oh my. I can’t win with this one. Sorry to hear about your pup. Hope the kids are managing well.

      Like

      July 30, 2013
  7. It is one seriously moving passage, isn’t it. And the whole book is striking for its tone and use of point of view. Thanks for choosing it…

    Like

    July 30, 2013
  8. It is a moving passage but one that could cause major problems for a child if it happened in real life. My pastor’s wife lost her father at a young age – her family told her God needed him – that put a wall between my pastor’s wife and God for years – she was sooooo angry at God – because in her rationale she needed her father too. The truth is that the enemy, satan, is the one who takes life – God gives life – he can help heal our hurts. I know this sounds preachy, but I also hated God for years because of things said to me by well-meaning, caring people, and I am cautious what I say to people who have lost loved ones. When I had a miscarriage someone told me that God wanted my baby more than me – I know they meant to be comforting but I wasn’t too fond of God at that point because I saw him as not helping me by stopping my father’s abuse and their well-meant comment about God wanting my baby pushed me even further away from God.

    Still, I hope I never have to explain to kids why their father died.

    Like

    July 30, 2013
    • Right. I think you see the tension of trying to explain it away as “God needed him thing.” Rufus is a smart kid and picks up on that. A lot of religious tension in this novel.

      Like

      July 30, 2013
  9. Voy a buscar quin traduzca tus lindos artculos al espaol.Saludos.Teresa

    Date: Tue, 30 Jul 2013 12:30:11 +0000 To: teresac831@hotmail.com

    Like

    July 30, 2013
  10. Wow, that’s a rough one. I often wonder how some writers are able to stay with the pain and delve so deeply. My own instinct, in life as in writing, is to cover pain over with a thick layer of humor. Doesn’t sound like there’s a whole lot of laughs in this book!

    Like

    July 31, 2013
    • Definitely not many laughs. It’s a rough one.

      Like

      July 31, 2013
  11. It’s really hard to read a book with a sad and depressing plot or premise. For me, there has to be something about the way it’s written, or the promise of some sort of enlightenment. A reason to suffer along with the author. I hope that’s the case here.

    Like

    July 31, 2013
  12. I agree. I am a thirty y/o father of two and that was pretty intense!

    Like

    August 1, 2013
  13. My husband’s cousin died two years ago, leaving behind two young boys. It’s something that no one ever really “gets over.” I don’t think I could make it through this book right now. Perhaps sometime down the road.

    Like

    August 3, 2013
  14. Your reflection on this passage hits home with me as well. I immerse myself in a story and have trouble at times seeing the places where end/begin. I am wanting to put this on my “to read” list but will do so with an awareness of needing some breathers.

    Like

    August 6, 2013
  15. ok this is seriously to sad, but you did warn us in the title, thanks for writing and sharing

    Like

    August 10, 2013
  16. You made me search in the net. I am somehow moved having lost my father for another woman, but am not innocent. I was put to tears and promised to read this.

    Like

    August 13, 2013
  17. Do you mind if I quote a couple of your posts as long as I provide credit and sources
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    of interest as yours and my visitors would certainly benefit from a lot of the information you provide here.
    Please let me know if this okay with you. Regards!

    Like

    January 29, 2014
  18. The Passage That Makes Me Cry every time is from Jude The Obscure, when Jude’s son “Little Father Time” from his previous marriage to Arabella, questions Sue’s pregnancy and that Jude can’t stay with the family in the lodgings. And then goes on to murder his half-sibling and hang himself.

    I have read this book many times, infact its my favourite. On my birthday, my daughter wrote me a beautiful massage telling me not to be sad. Its amazing what children see and feel. While I do not see myself as being sad, obviously children see things very differently than adults.

    Like

    August 23, 2015

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. My Parental Heart Strings Get Pulled Again | 101 Books
  2. Book #60: A Death In The Family | 101 Books
  3. My Most Popular Posts, Broken Down By Category | 101 Books

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