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Words of comfort help those who mourn

UC alum Cynthia Kuhn Beischel helps readers who have lost someone close to them with her book, "From Eulogy to Joy."

by Mary Niehaus

Several years after suddenly becoming a widow and single mother when her husband died in a 1992 drowning, Cynthia Kuhn Beischel, University of Cincinnati alumna (DAAP '71), conceived the idea for an anthology that would offer heartfelt support to grieving adults.

Cynthia Kuhn Beischel

Soliciting submissions from others who had lost loved ones, Beischel and her collaborator, Kristina Chase Strom, selected the title, "From Eulogy to Joy," suggesting that within each person's journey, mourning will end and peaceful acceptance will follow.

After placing a small ad in Writer's Digest magazine asking for submissions, the two women were overwhelmed by the responses -- 700 people willing to help others find their way through the pain. Added to the first-person accounts they had already collected, they actually had too much material. Their publisher insisted they trim the text by half.

The final version includes words of hope from 130 writers from such divergent paths as ranchers, pilots, chaplains, songwriters, storytellers and traditional healers. Well-known contributors include John Belushi's widow, Judith, whose book "Samurai Widow" was based on her personal journal; Neale Donald Walsch, author of "Conversations with God," who counsels the grieving to allow God to work wonders of healing in their lives; and Rabbi Earl Grollman, who encourages parents to be as gently truthful as possible with children, rather than speaking in euphemisms about the death of a family member.

Contributing writers reflect not only upon the deaths of loved ones, but also of persons who have been a source of anger -- a former spouse, estranged parent, even murderers. They discuss family traditions, funerals, the gift of supportive friends and caregivers and metaphysical approaches to healing.

Strom and Beischel had not collaborated on a book project before this one, although the two have known one another since Strom took classes at DAAP. "We may not always think alike, but we found that we work beautifully together," she says.

From "From Eulogy to Joy"

[Cynthia Beischel writes about the loss of her husband.]

On June 7, 1992, standing on a beautiful beach in South Carolina, I helplessly witnessed a series of events happening out in the ocean that I had difficulty understanding. I could not mentally grasp that my husband, after successfully helping to save our younger daughter's life, had just been dragged down into the depths by an undertow and drowned. I was numb with disbelief; devastation and despair would come later.

I was first attracted to my husband because of his humor and actually fell in love with him through laughter. Humor had been an integral and vital part of our relationship. In some circumstances it had been the glue that held our marriage together.

When I lost my husband, I also lost my sense of humor for a time. But when I could laugh again I knew that laughter did not show a lack of love, disrespect, or a forgetting of my loved one. To the contrary, I immediately knew that my husband would want me to laugh and have fun in the course of my healing process.

[Kristina Strom remembers a favorite cousin.]

From the time we were wee children, we would see each other every summer and reestablish our bond at Lake Millicent. Oh, the memories we all share of those smorgasbords out at the cottages, memories from the mundane to the magnificent.

From Eulogy to Joy

As we grew older, Raymond and I would always find time, usually in the middle of the night, to sit on the dock, dangle our feet in the water and talk about the Order of the Universe, or rather what life is all about.

Three years ago, he sent me a cutting from his garden via overnight express. Among the things he and I shared, perhaps the deepest bond was our reverence for Mother Earth. The generic name of this plant is "Angel's Trumpet," common throughout the South. I took photos of this plant as it grew and mailed them off to Raymond. The blossoms of this plant descended gracefully from a precarious perch on towering branches, pale yellow trumpet-like blossoms at once so fragile, yet strong.

On May 2, this plant died inexplicably. I could not figure out why and felt that I had somehow neglected it. I thought Raymond would be so angry when he found out. I now know otherwise; that was the day Raymond went to the Light.


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