From the moment the phone rang from the ambulance that was driving her mother to the hospital several hundred miles away, the whole world shifted into a new place. Nothing was going to be the same again, and eventually, neither was she.
Part memoir, part psycho-social commentary, Elegy for my Mother takes an unflinching look at the experience of death and those left behind in its wake. When her mother unexpectedly dies, Jenny, working as an actress in Los Angeles, is compelled to fly to Seattle and make her way through a series of unimaginably painful events, from the shock of the news to the sudden details of examining the causes, a funeral and packing up her mother’s house- while coming to grips with not the prospect of a future without her.
An intimate accounting of the days and weeks of the first year following her mother’s death, as the author returns home to find her own world in turmoil, echoing of the impact of the loss. As she makes her way through various emergencies -plagued by house issues and moving, her daughter’s crises, angry neighbors, family blowups and work deadlines- she grapples with the inevitability of her own changes while engulfed in grief. Weaved in among the challenges, still railing against the injustice of the loss, she begins to contemplate her mother’s difficult life and to map a course through her own, juxtaposing pain with a determination to survive in pursuit of relief and understanding.
“Jenny Leonhardt has written, in beautiful, descriptive, eloquent language, a eulogy not only to her mother but to all of us who are passing through and passing away. What changes in describing reality contact-fully and in the present, without politeness or withholding for the sake of self-protection– what changes then is the nature of love itself. We are inventing a new way to love. Or maybe a more adult way of loving each other honestly. The courage shown here is part of an even bigger growing up, right here on the edge of the affirmation of death itself. This is, some have said, the key to transcendence. And I am beginning to see and hear that coming from all quarters, including and especially this, Jenny’s wonderful book.”
Brad Blanton, Ph.D. author of Radical Honesty and other books