Once More We Saw Stars By Jayson Greene
Tragedy is tricky. We spend our lives fearing it, yearning to avoid it. So why read about it? Why engage?
Because the world is split into two groups. The first has never experienced a tragic, untimely death. The second has. And if you are part of that second group, you are marked forever. You were caught by surprise; you have no recourse. Only consequences.
In May 2015, Jayson Greene and his wife, Stacy, who lived in Brooklyn, needed a break. He brought their 2-year-old daughter, Greta, to a weekend sleepover with Stacy’s mother, Susan. She and Greta adored each other and they were excited about their date. Susan lived on the Upper West Side near the Esplanade Luxury Senior Residences, where benches sat out front. During a morning stroll, Susan and Greta settled on one. A loose brick fell from the eighth floor, striking Greta in the head and her grandmother in the legs. Susan recovered; Greta died.
[ This book was one of our most anticipated titles of May. See the full list. ]
What are the chances? As if a staggering family tragedy weren’t enough, it turned into a news story: The engineer hired to inspect the building had certified its facade was safe when in fact the city’s Investigation Department determined he had never been there.
For all the coverage the incident received, most people I know didn’t follow it. Maybe I did because I live near the Esplanade (now closed) and had once considered moving my mother there. But the real reason I followed it was that I am one of the marked. At 40, my younger sister, Phoebe, was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer when her sons were 4 years and 8 months old. After it spread to her lung, liver, bones and brain, she died in 2012. Different details, similar devastation. Though the death of a child is a singular hell.
Jayson Greene was 33 when his daughter died, working as an editor at the digital music magazine Pitchfork. Of his profession as a music journalist he notes, “I had chosen an absurd career path, with prospects somewhere between small-town golf pro and birthday-party magician.”
But in “Once More We Saw Stars,” his writing — about sudden death, family relationships, marriage, spirituality and healing — is a revelation of lightness and agility. That he managed to keep his facility for language during a period where it often disappears is a miracle. He has created a narrative of grief and acceptance that is compulsively readable and never self-indulgent. Even the chapters where he and Stacy seek relief outside the mainstream, at the Kripalu Center in Massachusetts and the Golden Willow Retreat in New Mexico — adventures I think of as survivor porn, passages I devour to discover (finally!) the real reason behind untimely deaths, the magic spell for grief, the expert medium who can reveal all — never turn foolish here.
Eventually, they return home: “Nothing in here knows about Greta’s death — not her red horsey with its empty smile, the toy bin beneath the living room chair. … We bring the news with us into each room, like smallpox.”
At Greta’s funeral, Stacy decides unexpectedly to speak. Greene writes: “Her face is pale, but her eyes are blazing. Everything and everyone she has ever been in her life — daughter, sister, colleague, wife, mother — is visible to me. She is overwhelmingly beautiful in this moment.” Stacy talks about her daughter’s loving relationship with her mother: “‘She wanted nothing more than to spend time with her Grandma Suz. She had the best day,’ she finishes, her eyes filling and her voice breaking. She sits down, spent from effort.”
Greene too finds himself spent, also enraged, at having to repeatedly explain his family’s plight. “Greta was the victim of an accident. … I have to learn to state this grievously unacceptable information over and over again. … I am the reminder of the most unwelcome message in human history: Children — yours, mine — they don’t necessarily live.” At Kripalu he and Stacy meet another couple whose toddler has died. “A pall of societal shame hovers over everyone in this club, the haunted inverse of new-parent meet-ups and mommy groups,” Greene writes. “Children who lose parents are orphans; bereaved spouses are widows. But what do you call parents who lose children? It seems telling to me there is no word in our language for our situation. It is unspeakable, and by extension, we are not supposed to exist.”
[ Read the essay Jayson Greene wrote for The Times in 2016, “Children Don’t Always Live.” ]
But exist they do because the one thing more ruthless than death is life, especially for the young. A close friend reminds Greene that after Greta died, he told her, “We are going to have to find friends with dead children.” “I have no recollection of uttering those words,” he notes, “but hearing them again months later it strikes me: Even then, some small part of me was making long-term plans for survival.” To be clear, survival does not exclude suffering, including baseless yet persistent self-recrimination. “I’m so sorry, baby girl,” he tells Greta 15 months after her death. “If we hadn’t gotten overwhelmed you’d still be here.”
They get pregnant again, with a son. At Harrison’s sonogram, Greene writes: “I feel a curious sensation coursing through my veins. It is unnamable: There is dread, but joy, too. The first round of antibiotics entering an infected patient, perhaps, or a prompt urging a wrecked system back online.”
By necessity, Greene stays mostly in his own lane. While the good and decent Stacy shines strong (that she continues to work as a lactation consultant is heroic in itself), the one character I wanted more of was Susan. Describing the accident’s aftermath, Greene writes: “Susan is at the foot of Greta’s bed, weeping softly. ‘Why couldn’t it have been me,’ she asks of no one in particular. I glance up at her, and her heartbreak is so acute it is like the sun — I can’t look at it. No one answers, but I think at her: It shouldn’t have been you. It shouldn’t have been Greta. It should have been no one.”
Throughout the book Greene intermittently acquaints us with Susan’s anguish. But happily, after Harrison’s birth, she moves near them in Brooklyn. Her “new building is big and airy and anonymous, with a massive third-floor office complex. Harrison likes to play on the couches there. He likes to throw her reading glasses on the floor and laugh.” Greene adds: “The two of them almost never go outside, however. Susan can’t quite bear to contemplate it yet.” You can only imagine. But hers is not his story to tell.
Greene never loses sight of Greta, though. After Harrison is born, Greene says to her: “Stay close to Harrison, O.K.? There are many things about his life that only you can teach him. He needs you.” Then he makes the eternal plea and promise of the marked: “And … please — stay close to me. I need you, too, and I will look for you wherever I go.”B:
【枪】【都】【被】【炸】【飞】【了】，【还】【用】【什】【么】【战】【斗】？ 【不】【过】【呢】，【这】【名】【少】【尉】【军】【官】，【也】【就】【是】【心】【中】【气】【愤】【罢】【了】。 【他】【也】【清】【楚】，【在】【刚】【才】【那】【个】【情】【况】【之】【中】，【别】【说】【是】【这】【些】【士】【兵】【了】，【就】【算】【是】【他】【们】【这】【些】【军】【官】，【也】【是】【在】【慌】【乱】【和】【恐】【惧】【之】【中】，【丢】【掉】【了】【自】【己】【的】【枪】【啊】。 【刚】【才】【的】【炮】【击】，【实】【在】【是】【太】【厉】【害】【了】。 【甚】【至】【是】，【就】【连】【他】【们】【的】【联】【队】【在】【战】【斗】【进】【攻】【的】【时】【候】，【都】【没】【有】【来】【过】【这】
【葛】【婷】【的】【话】，【让】【农】【芸】【心】【里】【愧】【疚】【又】【不】【知】【道】【该】【怎】【么】【办】。 【农】【芸】【也】【知】【道】【葛】【婷】【是】【真】【心】【想】【要】【和】【她】【们】【交】【朋】【友】【的】，【这】【一】【点】【农】【芸】【从】【来】【都】【没】【有】【怀】【疑】【过】。 【但】【是】【她】【相】【信】，【也】【没】【有】【办】【法】【啊】，【最】【主】【要】【的】【不】【是】【她】【的】【想】【法】，【而】【是】【魏】【薇】【她】【们】【的】。 【她】【又】【不】【能】【控】【制】【魏】【薇】【她】【们】【的】【想】【法】，【魏】【薇】【她】【们】【不】【愿】【意】【接】【受】【葛】【婷】，【她】【还】【能】【怎】【么】【办】？ 【有】【时】【候】，【农】【芸】【真】【的】【觉】
“【好】。【大】【伙】【小】【心】【点】。【先】【看】【看】【怪】【物】【在】【哪】。” 【沐】【言】【早】【就】【在】【那】【惊】【恐】【声】【里】【警】【戒】【起】【来】，【看】【着】【四】【周】。【不】【对】【劲】，【很】【不】【对】【劲】。【这】【里】【除】【了】【他】【们】【这】【些】【人】【的】【声】【音】【居】【然】【就】【没】【其】【他】【声】【音】【了】。【沐】【言】【眼】【神】【一】【凛】，【抓】【紧】【了】【天】【陨】。 【忽】【然】【一】【道】【黑】【影】【闪】【过】，【沐】【言】【模】【糊】【的】【看】【到】【好】【像】【是】【条】【狗】。 “【大】【家】【小】【心】，【好】【像】【是】【条】【丧】【尸】【狗】。”【百】【泰】【大】【声】【说】，【众】【人】【聚】【在】【一】【起】六合宝典之六合料吧【记】【得】【那】【晚】，【母】【亲】【独】【自】【带】【着】【一】【把】【弦】【琴】【去】【了】【渡】【口】，【并】【对】【着】【江】【对】【岸】【的】【千】【名】【山】【弹】【奏】【了】【一】【首】【她】【从】【未】【听】【过】【的】【曲】【子】。【盛】【知】【乐】【旁】【听】【在】【侧】，【觉】【得】【曲】【调】【虽】【多】【有】【欢】【快】【之】【意】，【但】【母】【亲】【反】【而】【随】【着】【这】【首】【自】【己】【弹】【奏】【的】【曲】【子】【越】【发】【郁】【郁】【寡】【欢】，【甚】【至】【无】【声】【掉】【下】【了】【眼】【泪】，【无】【法】【续】【音】【成】【章】。 【盛】【知】【乐】【一】【度】【以】【为】，【母】【亲】【是】【因】【她】【不】【经】【允】【许】【私】【收】【了】【千】【名】【山】【山】【神】【的】【礼】【物】，【冒】【犯】
【而】【且】【现】【在】【年】【轻】【要】【孩】【子】【恢】【复】【的】【也】【快】，【生】【出】【来】【之】【后】【他】【们】【四】【个】【老】【人】【都】【可】【以】【帮】【着】【带】。 【韩】【笑】【万】【万】【没】【有】【想】【到】，【自】【己】【成】【功】【避】【过】【了】【催】【婚】【那】【道】【坎】【儿】，【却】【栽】【在】【了】【生】【孩】【子】【上】【面】。 【某】【天】【她】【终】【于】【有】【时】【间】【休】【息】，【看】【着】【在】【衣】【帽】【间】【帮】【她】【整】【理】【衣】【服】【的】【男】【人】，【忽】【然】【蹑】【手】【蹑】【脚】【的】【走】【过】【去】【从】【后】【面】【蹿】【上】【了】【他】【的】【背】。 【连】【清】【川】【不】【知】【道】【是】【早】【就】【察】【觉】【了】【还】【是】【习】【惯】【了】，
“【诶】，【陈】【老】【师】，【月】【考】【成】【绩】【是】【不】【是】【出】【来】【了】【啊】？” 【倪】【老】【师】【走】【进】【办】【公】【室】，【突】【然】【想】【起】【来】，【问】【了】【一】【句】。 “【好】【像】【是】【出】【来】【了】，【今】【天】【下】【午】【要】【开】【会】【的】，【应】【该】【就】【是】【说】【这】【个】【吧】。” “【那】【你】【的】【座】【位】【表】【准】【备】【的】【怎】【么】【样】【了】？”【倪】【老】【师】【放】【下】【了】【课】【本】，【笑】【着】【说】【道】。 “【诶】，【反】【正】【我】【还】【是】【那】【句】【话】，【只】【要】【成】【绩】【不】【落】【后】，【我】【不】【来】【管】。”【老】【陈】【翻】【了】【个】【白】
【我】【真】【的】【很】【小】【心】【很】【小】【心】【隐】【藏】【自】【己】，【可】【还】【是】【被】【聪】【明】【的】【哥】【哥】【发】【现】【了】【端】【倪】。 【他】【居】【然】……【联】【系】【心】【理】【医】【生】。 【我】【没】【有】【生】【病】，【夜】【唯】【一】【也】【没】【有】【生】【病】，【我】【们】【都】【不】【需】【要】【医】【生】。 【霍】【医】【生】【和】【顾】【城】【西】【都】【发】【现】【了】【我】【的】【存】【在】，【其】【实】【我】【知】【道】【他】【们】【都】【是】【哥】【哥】【安】【排】【来】【给】【我】【检】【查】【身】【体】【的】【人】。 【我】【不】【会】【让】【他】【们】【将】【我】【的】【真】【实】【情】【况】【告】【诉】【哥】【哥】。 【我】【怕】【会】【吓】【着】