Reading Into Grief

| 8/24/2012 1:09:11 PM

Rachel Eddey (  is a freelance writer in New York. Her first book, a humorous memoir entitled Running of the Bride: My Frenzied Quest to Tie the Knot, Tear Up the Dance Floor, and Figure Out Why My 15 Minutes of Fame Included Commercial Breaks, is now available. Join her on Twitter, Facebook, or at any dive bar in New York City. This essay was originally published in the Chicago Tribune (June 24, 2012), and shares how her struggle to find an editor for that book coincided with her father's heart attack and emergency sextuple bypass surgery.


In May 2011, I had a good reason to be in Dublin: I was mad about life in New York and trying to escape. I had written a memoir three years earlier and couldn’t find a publisher. Four failed agents, a handful of opportunities inches away from my grasping hand, and countless margaritas later, I was burnt out. At 29, I contemplated retirement.

I wasn’t only disappointing myself. My dad, Lawrence J. Epstein, has always been my mentor and biggest cheerleader. A retired English professor who has published ten books on subjects ranging from comedy teams to folk singers to Jewish affairs, he and I often spent hours talking shop. Though I’d had some success with newspaper and magazine publishing, a book contract for me was our shared goal. We had been waiting for this moment my entire adult life. I felt like I was disappointing him, too.

Five days into my soul-searching trip, my mother-in-law called my hotel room—at 3am—to say that my then 64-year-old, previously healthy father had suffered a heart attack and needed emergency sextuple bypass surgery. Ireland was 3,150 miles from my dad’s Long Island hospital bed. I changed my flight, packed my bags, and cried the entire seven-hour trip home. It didn’t help that when the plane landed, the only message I had was from a friend announcing her brother's death.

I stopped at my parents' house on the way to the hospital to drop off my suitcase. The car was still rumbling in the driveway when my Blackberry pinged. I was annoyed at the interruption—a far preferable mood, admittedly, to the sheer, unequivocal terror that had been gripping my insides since I’d left the hotel. Cue a this-never-happens-in-real-life moment: It was from my dream editor. And he was offering a book contract.

An internal cloud covered me. Selling a book was the first step in a much longer process. I would have to go through rounds of edits and get magazines to review it and write a stump speech and schedule myself on radio shows and take countless other measures I couldn’t yet define. This wasn’t a battle I had entered alone and it wasn’t one I wanted to finish alone. But here I was, about to head to the hospital, unsure whether my father was even alive. I did the only thing I could think to do. I got back in the car.

Balnarayana Bandam
9/28/2012 3:28:21 AM

The story though true but impressive When man is weak and sickly Medicine helps to a range of positive But when coupled with mental satisfaction The prognosis destined towards recovery

Kathryn Blume
9/27/2012 8:27:59 PM

Five years ago, on the day I opened a one-woman show in New York which I'd written, produced, and raised over $80,000 to mount, my dad was diagnosed with leukemia. My folks lived in Albuquerque. I had press coming, I had people working for me, and there was no way to just drop everything and go out there immediately. Nor did I know how long he was going to be sick. I wanted to go take care of him, but doing this show was the culmination of years of work, and I had no idea how to handle it. I made it through the first weekend of performances, and flew to New Mexico. When I finally got to my dad's bedside, he was totally miserable - suffering through 24/7 nonstop chemo. But he opened his eyes, looked directly at me, and said, "You and I have no unfinished business. You're doing what we raised you to do. Go do it." He made sure to tell the rest of the family, so that nobody would give me a hard time for going back to New York. He died 2 weeks later, but I felt like he was with me the entire time.

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