Ten years ago, Susan Petersen Avitzour ’76 lost her 18-year-old daughter Timora to leukemia, after a six-year struggle. In her new memoir, And Twice the Marrow of Her Bones (ZmanMa), Avitzour deals with a number of profound personal, philosophical, and spiritual questions which face many bereaved parents. Using both narrative and a personal and philosophical journal, she takes the reader up close to the long years of her daughter’s illness and into her own emotional, intellectual, and spiritual journey after her child’s death. She addresses topics that range from food to fun to forgiveness, from pain to purpose to prayer—and ultimately considers the challenge of affirming faith and love in an unpredictable, and often cruel, universe.
The author writes:
“My goals in writing And Twice the Marrow of Her Bones were mainly two: To tell Timora’s and my stories in a way that would engross and move readers; and to write a book that would be of some comfort and/or assistance to people enduring hardship. I’ve been especially gratified that many people have told me it’s helped them deal with difficulties they are facing in their own lives, even if these difficulties are very different from those I describe in the memoir—and have thanked me for writing it.
“Creating the book was a double process. On the one hand, it was therapeutic in that it forced me to dig into deep aspects of my experience which I’d been avoiding, and to explore various facets of their meaning for me. That part was quite hard, but ultimately strengthened me. On the other, the process was deeply artistic in that I had to decide how to take my raw experience and put it into language, and fashion into a whole with integrity—a work that would be meaningful to others besides myself.”
“People often ask me if it was hard to write this particular memoir. My main difficulty was balancing my desire to tell the story of Timora’s illness and death and the need to protect my family’s privacy. One of the most serious challenges facing parents of children with serious illness is dealing with the family dynamics. I wanted to be honest about the very real difficulties, but without revealing things that my children would much rather be kept from the public eye. I eventually wrote just enough not to idealize our family—to let my readers know that a situation like ours is inevitably going to be very hard on the other children, and that parents will sometimes find themselves at a loss about what to do.”