I sat at my computer for a long time wondering how to start writing this book review. I could start with a sappy story about my mom and how she’s endlessly supported us no matter what we wanted to do in our lives…I could write about how my relationship with my mom has evolved and changed so much in the last few years in ways I never could have imagined…I could write about her strength, her stubbornness, her undying love and sense of humor…but I won’t. Instead, I’ll say this: my mom is single-handedly the strongest, bravest woman I know and the thought of losing her shakes me to the core.
I saw What to Do When I’m Gone at my local library and really debated checking it out. I knew it would bring me to tears. I knew I’d ugly-cry basically from start to end, but I couldn’t help but wonder what sage advice might come from reading the pages. I carried it around with me as I browsed for other books and ultimately decided to give it a go.
By page 15, I was a hot mess express. I poured myself a glass of wine and, by page 30 was drinking straight from the bottle. In the quiet safe space of my reading room, I let myself sob.
A colorful, poignant assortment of advice handed down from mother to daughter on how to live, practically and spiritually, after mom has passed, What to Do When I’m Gone illustrates how to move on post-burial. The book begins with the funeral, or Day 1: “pour[ing] yourself a stiff glass of whiskey and make some fajitas” and continues with daily activities to help aid in the healing process.
Written and illustrated by a mother/daughter team, Suzy Hopkins and Hallie Bateman respectively, WTDWIG shows us that it’s okay to laugh, it’s okay to find enjoyment, and it’s okay to just sit there and allow yourself to cry. It’s advice only a mom can offer, and it’s nothing if not beautiful, enriching, and tender.
If there’s one thing I learned in losing my dad, it was that death is real. It’s very, very, real. It’s inevitable for all of us and there’s no getting around the fact that we’re all, at one time, going to lose someone important to us. What WTDWIG does goes beyond offering helpful advice…it shows how precious and short life is and makes no false promises that the grief will eventually fade. It shows that it’s okay to feel all the feels, whether it’s a day after losing your mom or 20 years later. It gives us the courage to keep living, to keep breathing, to keep going…no matter how impossible the thought of that may seem at the time.
I’m happy to say that What to Do When I’m Gone turned out to be exactly what I needed. It was a sweet and gentle reminder to call my mom and just sit and chat for a while. Though it wasn’t my mom offering this sage advice, it may as well have been. The wisdom and honesty that permeates these pages can only come from a mother who loves her daughter, who wants nothing but the best for her. It’s a book every daughter should read, whether her mother is alive or not. It’s raw and honest in the way only a mother can be, offering advice that both helps and hurts, and proving that we all retain just a little of our mother (no matter how much we may protest!) as we age, learn, and grow.
Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.