Thirty Years After The Man in the Water, A Great Writer Faces His Own Grief

Photo Credit: Chip Cooper

Thirty years ago this month, I read The Man in the Water, an essay in Time Magazine by Roger Rosenblatt.  It instantly became one of my favorites and I have returned to it many times over the years.  It was heroic, deeply emotional,  and powerful writing of the highest order, yet disciplined enough to completely avoid Hallmark territory. It also, in the intervening years, has been anthologized, widely circulated, and praised as a profound and even shattering take on the life-long battle we all wage against forces that may or may not be beyond our control.

Nothing I had ever read to that point occasioned more tears or led to more contemplation about the human dilemma. But it also delivered a profound message about our potential for selflessness and heroism that has been with me ever since.

If you read it, let me know what you think.

Now, though, I have a problem.

Mr. Rosenblatt has written Kayak Morning: Reflections on Love, Grief, and Small Boats, an account of the sudden death of his 39 year-old daughter from an undiagnosed heart ailment. And while I know I will have to read it, that I want to read it, the thought of this masterful essayist talking about his own relentless grief leaves me absolutely terrified about the emotions that might be unleashed.

Mr. Rosenblatt  is a writer who does not flinch, a word-craftsman incapable of false notes, a man who – over the years – has had an almost mystical feel for the nature of human pain and suffering.

Now, though, it is his pain and suffering.  In his voice.

I feel cowardly. Part of me doesn’t even want to face the fact that he – or anyone for that matter — has ever had to feel this kind of grief.

But I know that they have.  Roger Rosenblatt has. And so it’s time to read Kayak Morning.

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