First stone crossed: It was in the hospital that I first met L.L. Barkat’s Stone Crossings: Finding Grace in Hard and Hidden Places. I had crashed on my bike three days before, and it took that long to figure out that something was very wrong. As my wife rushed me out the door to the emergency room, I grabbed Stone Crossings, figuring I would need something to do while we waited. I was wrong; we didn’t wait. They did x-rays immediately and then pronounced, like a medical benediction, three broken ribs, a fractured fourth rib, and a partially collapsed lung. With an oxygen tube up my nose and an IV drip for pain meds in my hand, I finally got to a room about 11:30. An hour later, I started reading, and didn’t stop until I was finished, sometime near 4 a.m.
Second stone crossed: The writer in me loved the book’s structure, each chapter like a stone, or two stones, really – a stone of remembrance and a stone to cross. Some of the remembrance-stones were painful, and some of the stones to cross were scary. Each stone had a simple name, like love, forgiveness, fear, gratitude and justice. The writing, ah, the writing: extraordinary.
Third stone crossed: It’s easy to see Stone Crossings as a kind of meditative memoir. And it is that. But about a third of the way into the book, I realized that something profound was happening, something very powerful for a reader. The stories were becoming my stories; the stones were becoming my stones to cross.
Fourth stone crossed: As each stone became more and more my own, the pain behind the author’s remembrances became my own, and I started turning my own stones over. There it all was – the pain, the hurt, the ugliness. And much of it was my own, of my own doing. None of the book’s promotional statements prepared me for this.
Fifth stone crossed: So many things go back to my father. He died more than 20 years ago, and quickly, from a massive stroke, which for him was a blessing. He would have hated any kind of disability, and in the worst way. But he left behind some heavy stones – he hadn’t spoken to my older brother in more than two years; he had just gotten mad at me for some reason still unknown earlier that week he died; so many unresolved issues with my mother; and a business that was a mess, an accounting nightmare. And I was the executor of his will. Grief, sorrow, anger – it was all bottled up while I helped my mother through all the legal morass. Two years later, I broke down and cried in my wife’s arms. More than 20 years later, as I picked up this stone in the hospital, I forgave him. And me.
Sixth stone crossed: And then with the pain of each stone came the gratitude. Someone had already turned my stones over, found the ugliness and cleaned it up. All of it. Instead of hiding ugliness and weighing me down with guilt and regrets, the stones had become steps forward, ways to cross the stream.
Seventh stone crossing: I read Stone Crossings in late July. Now I go back and reread the stones. And the gratitude grows.
(Note: Joan Ball over at Beliefnet.com will be featuring Stone Crossings in early December. Check out Joan's site -- it's a deep one -- and see what she does with Stone Crossings.)