The Path to Healing

Fran Wohlenhaus-Munday and Jack Munday
Guest Writers

Two men have become Jack’s friends. Each is the father of a child who has died and each is the protagonists in a fine novel. It doesn’t matter if these two men are fictional persons, not flesh and blood like Jack, like Marlys was.

Mr. Ives, a saint of a man, is the hero of Oscar Hijuelos’ novel “Mr. Ives’ Christmas.” Mr. Bascombe, the protagonist in Richard Ford’s novels “The Sportswriter” and “Independence Day” is also a good man, though his life seems to be a more diverse pilgrimage. Both Hijuelos and Ford are Pulitzer prize winning novelists, and have drawn their characters so well they have come to life for Jack.

Jack wanted to see if these two men, as fictional characters, corroborated what we have come to know as the father’s response. They do.

Jack imagined the men meeting and finding comfort in each other. Ready to listen and console, Mr. Ives would show compassion to Mr. Bascombe, not offering answers but, perhaps, seeking some clue or hint to help him answer his own deep questions of faith. Mr. Bascombe would also show consideration, ask to hear the other’s story, and offer to sit, perhaps have some drinks or just conversation, certain to affirm the sadness of the loss. Mr.. Bascombe would be interested in whatever Mr. Ives had to say.

Jack would be part of that conversation, of course, since he knows both men intimately, and perhaps he would—in time—reveal some of his inner thoughts and feelings. He knows he could do that with them. As a father of a child who has died, Jack found himself fitting between them spiritually, with more belief than Bascombe, who did not seem to acknowledge God in the equation at all, and yet with less faith than Ives, who tried so hard to get help from God.

The three men would recognize each other as fellow travelers on the same path to healing and would tolerate the different response each of them had. The comforting news—what could be good news about a child dying—is the similarity in which Mr. Ives and Mr. Bascombe each honored their son in death by not allowing their grief to destroy the remaining days of the father, the parent. And, of course, we have tried to do that too. We’re different because of death, but again able to face the future.

Fran and Jack Munday have worked with the bereaved for more than 25 years, and write frequently on grief issues. E-mail: [email protected] Information about their books is available at Jack’s latest book can be found at