Stations of the Heart: Parting with a Son
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Stations of the Heart is a father’s heartbreaking and hopeful story about his beloved son, in which a young man teaches his family “a new way to die” with wit, candor, and grace.
As the book opens, Richard Lischer’s son, Adam, calls to tell his father, a professor of divinity at Duke University, that his cancer has returned. Adam is a charismatic young man with a promising law career, and that his wife is pregnant with their first child makes the disease’s return all the more devastating. Despite the cruel course of the illness, Adam’s growing weakness evokes in him a remarkable spiritual strength. This is the story of one last summer, lived as honestly and faithfully as possible. Deeply moving and utterly lacking in sentimentality or self-pity, Stations of the Heart is an unforgettable book about life and death and the terrible blessing of saying good-bye.
bonfire against the church’s north transept. He wanted to see my new office, which is perched above the portico of the Divinity School, so we passed beneath a six-story magnolia and went up a flight of stairs. It was nothing but an empty room awaiting books, furniture, and the usual mementos that junk up an academic’s office. It smelled of new carpet and paint. The painters had left the leaded windows open. “Oh, this is nice,” he said. “It’s so bright.” We didn’t chat about the law, the Dye
movie, Jenny told me, usually a romantic comedy or a political thriller. If the film had a cynical or violent side, they turned it off. After the movie, Jenny lit the candles again and they read a portion of the Bible aloud. Then they recited a psalm or a verse from the Lutheran Order of Vespers: Let my prayers be set forth before you as incense, And the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice. Sometimes they read from A Private House of Prayer, compiled by the spiritual writer Leslie
to the room, “I’m going.” Then he marched to the front door and threw it open. “Guess who came to our class today,” Adam blurted out as he walked into the house after school. His voice was piping with excitement. “Go on, guess.” Before we could ask who, he said, “Gene Banks!” Banks was a basketball star at Duke whom all the little boys idolized. Adam wrote poems to and about Gene Banks. Banks was apparently taking part in a community PR program, and as luck would have it had visited Adam’s
they combine in a single murmur. Nurses and orderlies chat and laugh quietly among themselves. Breathing machines sigh as if burdened by the life they are supporting. Monitors buzz on officiously and occasionally bleat like startled birds. Bags of fluid drip and tick to their own rhythm. Once you actually hear the fluorescent lights, their hum is as deafening as the roar of cicada or the noise of test patterns. I had listened to the whole perverted symphony only four months before. One of the
lip of the driveway and went facedown in the snow, still laughing but now screaming in pain at the same time. They took it as a ploy on my part and kept on pelting. “Daddy’s not kidding,” I remember pleading. “He hurts bad!” On a family vacation to Nags Head, it rained one afternoon, which meant the rolling dunes of Jockey’s Ridge were not available for pirate games. At a used books store in town it was Adam who first came across the copy of Oliver Twist. For some time I had been telling them