Beauty and Fragility: The Intersection of Life and Literature

The following post was written as I was traveling home from California earlier this month:

I am on a train, zipping north to Sacramento. I have just attended the funeral of my mom’s best friend (who I had always considered my “spare mother”), and I have just finished reading Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, a novel narrated by Death and set in Nazi Germany. I am haunted by the last words of Death, which close the novel—“I am haunted by humans” (550).


I am haunted by the beauty of loving hearts, the laughter of those who believe life is to be lived and their fragility and strength in the face of a world that can contain lover’s kisses, baby’s smiles, Nazi Germany, and terminal cancer.

It is deep night, and lights like shooting stars, streak past my window.

I thank God for blessing Mom and me, and all our family with the loving, exuberant, encouraging, and life affirming friendship of Marie Hebel Gonzales.

And I thank Him for the gift of words and for writers like Zusak who in the midst of being real while depicting a country in the grip of war and a hate-filled madman, can also report with remarkable beauty the depth of familial love, the joy of friendship, and the courage of those who refuse to heed the words of power and hate.

Marie was that kind of person. She loved her husband, she loved her kids, and she loved everyone who came into contact with her so that each believed him or herself to be her favorite person. Marie loved, and when faced with a choice, always chose the way of “we.”

Our family and all her friends were blessed to have known her. In the words of my stepfather, “She will be sorely missed.”