By Mike Briotta
NORTHAMPTON -- An area author's debut book hit the shelves last month, and the cover art that she chose echoes the story's central theme: through a darkened forest, a glimpse of sunlight breaks.
In this case, the forest was the mourning process of author Elizabeth Weber after losing her husband to lymphoma. The light was her eventual return to joy.
The 52-year-old Weber lost husband Bob Fraley in 2006. The pair had met later in life, soon discovered they were soul mates, and had 10 blessed years together.
"I have a counseling background, so I was aware of what was happening to me," she said of the grieving process. "I equated it to the winter of my life; the dark night of my soul."
She holds a Master's Degree in Counseling Psychology. She is also inspired by Sufi beliefs and the poet Rumi. In one chapter of the book, Weber sees a pruned rose bush in winter, a gnarled stump. She relates to that as a metaphor for her own phase of life.
"I related the seasons of the year to a stage of my life," she said. "When I had lived in Kauai [a small Hawaiian island] I had the love of my life, friends came easily, and it seemed like summer."
Fittingly, that island is also called "The Garden Island" and Weber herself is very much in tune with the ebb and flow of the natural world.
The book begins as Weber finds herself sobbing uncontrollably at her beloved's funeral. "None of us enjoys losing control in public," she said. "In other cultures, wailing and sobbing in public is accepted. Not here. We're so tight-lipped. But grief hit me like a tsunami wave. It was so much bigger than me. I couldn't control it, or hold it in."
It was doubly difficult when Weber, still in mourning, was then diagnosed with a serious medical ailment, a type of tumor on her auditory canal. She faced three options: brain surgery, chemotherapy, or physical therapy.
"You can guess which option I chose," she said. "With physical therapy, I as able to grow new neural networks around the old problem. I regained my balance, and Chapter 23 is about neural plasticity."
Luckily, summertime would come again. She's since remarried her old flame Terry Lee, and once again Weber has a warm smile for the world.
"There's another summer in the book," she said. "The rest of my book is about coming out of winter," she said. "In chapter 10, I talk about spring and seeing a yellow forsythia bush in all its splendor. Nature shows the way."
Weber also discovered a nearby body of water that, while at first unappealing, provided her with a place to be introspective.
It abutted a nearby school, and at first all that the author saw were the heating and air conditioning units nearby. But she walked slightly around its perimeter, stood at its banks, and soon saw nothing but nearby fields and foliage. She took from that the lesson that so many things lie not in reality but in our perception of it.
The pond soon became Weber's own personal Walden Pond, inspiring her to reflect and write.
"I never intended to write about this," she said. "I was just going through it. I was able to see the beauty in this moving process, in this sacred and precious journey. I want readers to feel that I've taken the journey for your or with you. You can come out of this, but you have to go through it first. We need to respect the natural processes and honor them; to not just soldier on."
She added, "By honoring the process, you actually move through it more quickly. That's why the book's title is 'A Beautiful Mourning.' I came out renewed and grateful. I had ten years with Bob and I'm a woman in my 50s with so much to give. I learned to embrace all the passages of life."
A tenet to her well-being is movement, both emotionally and physically.
"Movement is the metaphor," she said. "Moving through grief, loss and depression. I love that now I'm a movement coach. It's about how we live and embrace life. Joy is the journey."
It's an approach that she applies every day. Weber is also a fitness coach who specializes in helping people with injuries, illness, depression, addictions or special needs. She said of her fitness coaching, "We all live in our bodies and deserve to live in a pain-free way."
Her book is available online at Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com. She's following the advice of online publisher iUniverse to talk about her book locally.
"I want to let it unfold as it will," she said of any publicity about the book.
"A Beautiful Mourning" is also available at www.iuniverse.com. For more information about her fitness coaching, please visit her Web site at www.elsaweber.com or call for an appointment at 727-8254.
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