November 11, 2007

Here If You Need Me

Here If You Need Me: A True Story by Kate Braestrup
Nonfiction - Memoir
Finished 10/29/07
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Ten years ago, Kate Braestrup, her husband, Drew, and their four young children were enjoying a morning like any other. Then Drew, a Maine state trooper, left for work and everything changed. On the very roads that he patrolled each day, an oncoming driver lost control, and Kate lost her husband.

Stunned and grieving, Kate decided to pursue what had been her husband's dream and became a minister. And soon she found a most unusual calling: serving as chaplain for search-and-rescue missions in the Maine woods, giving comfort to people whose loved ones are missing - and to the wardens who sometimes have to deal with dreadful outcomes. Whether with parents whose six-year-old daughter has vanished into the woods, with wardens as they search for a snowmobiler trapped under the ice, or with a man whose sister left an infant seat and suicide note in her car by the side of the road, Braestrup provides solace, understanding, and spiritual guidance when they're needed most.

Here If You Need Me recounts Kate Braestrup's remarkable journey from grief to faith to happiness. Dramatic, funny, deeply moving, and simply unforgettable - it is a story about finding God by helping others and offers proof of the miracles that happen every day when a heart is grateful and life and love are restored.

It's been several years since I've attended a book signing and I almost missed this one. I usually read the local paper the day it arrives, but sometimes life gets a bit hectic and I wind up spending an afternoon catching up on a day or two of news. I happened to glance at the front page of the Saturday Values: Religion - Spirituality section one Sunday evening, only to discover that Kate Braestrup was coming to town the following Tuesday. I had heard good things about her memoir from Maudeen and decided to buy a copy to see if I'd like to attend the book signing. I read for a few hours Monday evening and managed to finish the book Tuesday afternoon. I enjoyed it quite a lot, but might have liked it a bit better had I not rushed through to finish in time for the signing.

Rod & I don't attend church, but something about Braestrup's writing called to me and we decided to attend not only the book signing and her lecture, but also the Ecumenical Service of Remembrance at Lincoln's First-Plymouth Congregational Church. We must've timed it just right, as there were only a couple ahead of me in line at the book signing, but nobody behind, so I was able to chat with the author for a few minutes as she signed my copy of her book. She was very warm and friendly, with a gentle manner and kind eyes. We spoke very briefly about my personal loss and she offered sincere words of sympathy and understanding. Definitely one who understands loss and the ongoing process of bereavement. I felt comforted in her presence.

Rod & I found a place to sit and were surprised to see the church begin to fill up. All in all, there had to be close to 400 people in attendance. I'm not sure why, but the large turnout surprised me.

Kate Braestrup's lecture followed her memoir fairly closely. In spite of the familiarity of her anecdotes (remember, I had just read the book in its entirety within the past 24 hours), I still enjoyed hearing her speak about her loss and how she came to be a chaplain for the Maine Warden Service. She was much funnier in person than her book, perhaps in effort to keep the lecture from becoming too maudlin and depressing.

After her talk, the Ecumenical Service of Remembrance: Honoring our Loved Ones began. There was clergy from First-Plymouth Congregational Church, St. Mark's United Methodist, the Unitarian Church, the Interchurch Ministries of Nebraska and Southwood Lutheran, Quinn Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church and Emanuel of Congregation B'nai Jeshurun. During this candlelight vigil, each of the representatives shared in reciting the following Jewish prayer:

In the rising of the sun and in its going down,
we remember them.
When we are weary and in need of strength,
we remember them.
When we are lost and sick at heart,
we remember them.
When we have joys we yearn to share,
we remember them.
So long as we live, they too shall live,
for they are now a part of us, as
we remember them.
In the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter,
we remember them.
In the opening of buds and in the rebirth of spring,
we remember them.
In the blueness of the sky and in the warmth of summer,
we remember them.
In the rustling of leaves and in the beauty of autumn,
we remember them.
In the beginning of the year and when it ends,
we remember them.

After the prayer, everyone slowly came forward with their candles, placing them in one of two large bowls filled with sand. The church glowed with the warmth of candlelight and a quiet hush fell upon all in attendance. It was extremely moving, to say the least, and I doubt there was a dry eye in the entire congregation.

A remarkable book, a remarkable woman, and truly a remarkable evening.

I'm glad we took the time to go.

Oh, and I suppose I'll be asked what she inscribed in my book.

For Lesley,

Blessed Be.

Kate Braestrup

Thank you, Kate.

Note: Click here to read one of Kate's sermons (which is also included in the memoir).


  1. What a memorable and poignant evening - I am so glad you enjoyed this book and that you had the opportunity to go to the booksigning and meet Kate (and can I say I am more than a little jealous?). But the remembrance service - wow - that sounds like an incredibly meaningful evening.

  2. Anonymous9:02 PM

    What a special, special time. Thanks for sharing it with us. Hugs to you!

  3. It truly sounds like you were meant to meet the could easily have not read about the signing at all. It sounds like a very moving and meaningful evening.

    Thank you for sharing your experience and the beautiful prayer. I think I will share it with my mother-in-law, as we have been talking of remembrance, with the proximity of my late father-in-law's birthday to Veterans' Day. He was a WWII veteran who would have celebrated his 88th birthday on the 10th of this month.

  4. What a moving experience. I think this is what serendipity is.

  5. Wow, I got all teary just reading about it, Les. Thanks for sharing the experience.

  6. Maudeen - It certainly was a memorable & poignant evening. We haven't been to a remembrance service in a couple of years (the first one just about did us both in - we were complete wrecks before the night was over), and while this was was quite tearful for both of us, I'm glad we went.

    Thank you for the book recommendation. Keep 'em comin'!

    Kay - It really was a special event. Thanks for the hugs.

    Janet - As Nan says, it was serendipity. Or would that be serendipitous?

    I'm glad you appreciated the inclusion of the prayer in my review. I actually have it posted on my bulletin board above my desk here. It's on a note card that we received on the one-month anniversary of Rach's death. I'd never heard it before, so as you can imagine, it was very meaningful to hear the poem recited at the event.

    I'm sorry about your father-in-law. I suspect your mother-in-law will appreciate the poem as much as I did.

    Nan - I think you're right. And, I think you would've enjoyed hearing the author speak. Something about her reminded me of you.

    Andi - Awww. Thanks.

  7. Anonymous11:04 AM

    I am so glad that you were able to have had such a wonderful and peaceful experience.

  8. Anonymous8:01 PM


    Sounds like this lady took you on a remarkable journey through her book and in person.

    Very touching. Love the Jewish prayer.


  9. Anonymous6:50 PM

    I've had that book on my wishlist for awhile now, glad to hear it's a goodie, and very cool that you got to meet her!

  10. Stephanie - That's exactly what it was. Peaceful...through tears.

    Gayla - The prayer is especially meaningful to me and I was stunned when they began to recite it. Couldn't have picked a better one.

    Lesley - I think this is one you'd enjoy quite well. BTW, glad to see you back in the blogosphere. I was beginning to worry...

  11. I'm glad you and your husband were able to experience that sweet time together. And thanks for sharing the meaningful poem.

  12. Thanks, Booklogged. It's proved to be quite a memorable evening.

  13. Hi Lesley,
    I have not read this book yet but your review makes me want to. You should read A year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion ( which is about a similar experience.

  14. MindFul MiMi - Thanks for the recommendation! I read The Year of Magical Thinking a couple of years ago. I need to post a review, as it has some marvelous passages I'd like to include here in my blog.


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