My Grandfather's Blessings:
Stories of Strength, Refuge, and Belonging

by Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.

Riverhead Books, New York, 2000. ISBN 1573221503.
Reviewed by Judith Helburn
Posted on 05/02/2002

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Faith/Spirituality/Inspiration

When I read My Grandfather's Blessings, I, too, felt blessed. There is no doubt that Rachel Naomi Remen's gifts from her grandfather-all before the age of seven-shaped her, gave her strength and enriched her heart. This book is her testimonial and her gift back to him and to us.

Remen captured me on page 5 of the introduction. "When we recognize the spark of God in others, we blow on it with our attention and strengthen it no matter how deeply it has been buried or for how long." And in the seven following sections, we receive stories from her life including those she received and those she gave. "Receiving Your Blessings" gives us stories about blessing, being blessed, choosing life and being fully conscious. There follows, "Becoming a Blessing." One short story tells of a woman with Alzheimer's who is calmed by and speaks to her image in the mirror. Her doctor noticing also stops and speaks to the image in the mirror, validating her as a human being.

As I read, I marked phrase after phrase, passage after passage. My Grandfather's Blessings makes me feel good. It makes me feel hopeful that in this chaotic world, we can make a difference by uncovering our own light and witnessing the uncovering of others as well. Her stories, beautifully written, give example after example of how to mend ourselves and the world.

We begin to know the person who is called Rachel who is full of compassion and awe and humility. In the section called "Finding Strength, Taking Refuge," she writes of loss and suffering. "Unless we learn to grieve, we may need to live life at a distance in order to protect ourselves from pain." We are led from the small and ordinary, but always sacred, in the beginning to the universal of "Restoring the World" at the end.

Thank you, Rachel Naomi Remen, for this blessing.

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