Carol Matthews said it means a lot to be holding a reading and discussion for her latest book in the Malaspina Theatre lobby.
Matthews and her husband, Mike, devoted most large portions of their lives to working at Vancouver Island University, she as dean of human services and community education while Mike taught in the English department and acted on the Malaspina Theatre stage.
Matthews’ new book, Minerva’s Owl: The Bereavement Phase of My Marriage, is a reflection on how she processed Mike’s passing six years ago this month. They had known each other for 50 years are were married nearly the entire time.
“He was very healthy and then suddenly a whole bunch of things happened and he got very bad cancer and died,” she said.
“It was something I really didn’t expect to happen because he was much healthier than me and I thought he would live forever.”
Although she started working on the book in the year following Mike’s death, it took her four more years to gradually write the book, with the final chapter being completed this past year. She said she wrote 10 times as much as appears in the book and still says, “In a way, it’s hard to see it as ever finished.”
“this is very different from anything I’ve ever written before because it is an intensely personal exploration of my own bereavement,” Matthews said, later adding, “It’s cathartic in that sense that as you write you understand more what’s really going on.”
The book is divided into sections titled Grieving, Longing, Belonging, Mourning, Cleaving and Surviving, the last of which emphasizing that once one partner dies, there is still a life to be lived, something it took her a long time to realize.
“I think people are starting to talk a little bit more about those things, but still not as much as maybe they should. We tend to live in an age denying culture, which is very much a death denying culture and … I think if you don’t accept the idea of death, you’re probably not fully living,” she said.
At first Matthews was nervous to write the book; she didn’t want it to come across as overly sentimental or self-indulgent. But since Minerva’s Owl was released in December she said she’s received positive feedback not only from people who are bereaved, but from those reflecting on their own relationships as well.
“I’m not saying it’s any kind of a ‘how-to’ book for other people because it’s my story,” Matthews said of the book.
“Everybody experiences life and death and loss in their own way, uniquely, and I don’t have advice for anybody, except [if] this book actually does have a message to people generally, it would be, just pay attention. Because it all matters.”
WHAT’S ON … Carol Matthews reads from Minerva’s Owl: The Bereavement Phase of My Marriage at Vancouver Island University Building 310 on Friday, Feb. 9 at 3 p.m.