My Honors Thesis engages my personal narrative surrounding the death of my father, who passed away of lymphoma in October, 2010, with Terry Tempest Williams’ autobiographical memoir, Refuge, exploring the paradox between our modern medical system and the natural order of life and death. Williams' memoir presents a close relationship with the natural world as an avenue through which it is possible to face grief and loss in a more healthy, calm and even spiritual way-- a way that is not traditionally presented in our highly medicalized society and was starkly absent from my father’s final days, despite his life-long identity as a man of nature and as a poet. After his death, our family was left to navigate an unpredictable terrain of loss and confusion, as we longed to discover something comforting, something human among the remnants of a death that was cold and wrought with suffering. Refuge suggests an alternative to submitting to the suggestions of medical professional and describes a family who relies instead on their connection to the surrounding landscape to find peace and engage in conversations I wish my family could have had. It is my sincere hope that this personal piece will present my situation within the framework of Refuge in a way that may be relatable on a more universal level and encourage discussion about the stories, the silences that exist in our lives. Perhaps, as I make further peace with my father’s death by examining the absence of communication from his final days, by writing about the unspoken, I might help others who have experienced similar loss to do the same.
Date of Award
Derr, Laura, "Some Comfort to the Order of Things: A Journey Through the Terrain of Silence, Grief, and Nature" (2012). Honors Program Theses. 6.