“If you had the chance, just one chance, to go back and fix what you did wrong in life, would you take it? And if you did, would you be big enough to stand it?”
Those words I’ve got from the back cover of MITCH ALBOM’s new book FOR ONE MORE DAY. For One
More Day is the story of a man who attempts suicide, but does not succeed. No matter what he does, he survives the attempt. Charley "Chick" Bennetto was once a major league baseball player, and even made it to the World Series. But life for him has gone downhill since then. His story is told in flashbacks, showing his relationship with his parents, in particular his mother. His mother’s death made a big impact on him, leading him to attempt suicide, and the reason behind this is revealed slowly through the telling of their relationship. He was told that you can only be one thing – a momma’s boy or a daddy’s boy, but you can’t be both. So he chose to be a daddy’s boy, nearly shunning his mother throughout his life, treating her with less respect that he should have otherwise. He adored his father, a man that was distant and treated his mother at times with cruelty. And suddenly one day, his father is out of their lives, with no explanations. Chick’s life is told in short chapters, mostly titled "times my mother stood up for me", and "times I did not stand up for my mother". This story will ring true for many, as I think what happens when one is growing up is that the mother is the one that ends up the disciplinarian, and often times (especially in divorced families) she’s the one that takes up the slack, she’s doing it all. Chick never appreciated his mother, nor was he ever there for her. Finally, on that last day of her life, he disappoints her yet again. It’s a day he wishes he can take back and do over again. The miracle of Chick’s life is that when he ends up in a near fatal car accident, he doesn’t die but instead walks away and meets his mother again who has been dead for years, as if it’s just another day. It is the experiences of this day that turns Chick’s life around, as the reader will discover. What follows is the one "ordinary" day so many of us yearn for, a chance to make good with a lost parent, to explain the family secrets, and to seek forgiveness. Somewhere between this life and the next, Chick learns the astonishing things he never knew about his mother and her sacrifices. And he tries, with her tender guidance, to put the crumbled pieces of his life back together.
I won’t say more as I don’t want to reveal the ending, but FOR ONE MORE DAY wasn’t my favorite book by this author. I don’t think the story is as "wonderful" as the previous THE FIVE PEOPLE YOU MEET IN HEAVEN, or the great TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE. Expected more emotion, especially since so many people experience the regret of not having one more day. *grin* But, no matter what he writes, ALBOM seems to always find a way to hit you in the heart in that very last chapter.
Anyhow, the lesson learned here are VALUABLE. Who would not ask for one more day–to understand, forgive, and make right what time and life has unraveled? I closed the book and did some thinking. The loss of a loved one is always difficult, but if you were able to have one more day with that person, what do you think they would show you? It is true, that old cliché, that misery loves company – and I, in a particularly miserable mood, was immediately pleased with the company of the book’s Chick. I was grateful his character seemed "worse" than me. I was, happy is the wrong word – but something like it, for the illustration the character brought to life: the bottom is still somewhere further down below. I was grateful for the literary metaphor of jumping off a bridge (water tower in the book) – and reading this book bought me a day or two of not feeling like doing it myself. I could relate to letting your world go to hell when your parent dies. I could relate to choosing, mommy or daddy’s girl? and, as Chick’s dad tells him in the book, knowing you can’t ever be both. And wondering, which one, really, am I? and why? and if my allegiance has changed over time, when? and again, why? why? why? I liked the idea that when people think of you, they bring you close to them, as happened in chick’s journey through his mom’s day. I liked how Albom let Chick’s mom explain how, when people remember you, they feel you alive in their world. I’ve had this happen recently with a number of old lovers and friends, and it is confusing, complicated, difficult and wonderful when they show up in this time of profound sadness juxtaposed with the perfect life/love/family I have made. This book, with its explanation of how Chick’s mom shows up in the lives of people who remember her as their time to cross over draws near, this is a lovely idea that somehow transmits the message, "ease up. It’s all good".
All in all, this is a lovely easy read. I like how Albom makes death more palatable. I like how he creates metaphors I can look forward to living into. I like the simple truth he weaves through his work: love matters most, family matters more than that, god knows what you’re up to and sends you help in the form of memories, angels, strangers and "accidents" – and if you get a close enough look at all of them, finally seeing them from their right angles, there is design and purpose and real, enduring, powerful, true love throughout it all – waiting for us to recognize it for what it is. Waiting for us to get out of our well of uniquely human despair, look up, and say thank you. Waiting for us to show up. Heaven is all around, just waiting for us to recognize we’re already there.
and so it is.
and so it has been.
and so it continues.
and having read this lovely little book, my pain is somewhat eased, and I am made better, through the aid of it’s comfort and accompaniment.