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I am devoted to helping people become more of what is possible for them. My commitment, actually my passion, is to help people become more fully alive.

The Poet of Tolstoy Park

The Poet of Tolstay Park Sonny Brewer By Sonny Brewer
Publisher: Random House, Inc.
Paperback: 272 Pages

Henry Stuart is 67 and suffering from a life-threatening illness. Being a retired professor, a widower, and father of two grown sons, most people in the same circumstances would have hunkered down in the “familiar” to wait for the end. Not Henry Stuart however. He didn’t want his sons to go through the heart wrenching experience of seeing their father go from a strong, curious, stubbornly independent person to wasting away. He didn’t want them to do the caretaking inherent in what was expected to be a difficult dying. Neither did he want his good friend a minister who continuously nagged Henry to worship God his way to witness his ending.

In an overwhelming time of crisis and confusion Henry trusted himself to make decisions that were best for his life, not by anybody else’s yardstick. Many including his two sons and best friend thought he was losing his grip. Used to Henrys frequent divergence from the usual and customary, Henry’s decision to leave Idaho and move to a ten acre lot in Alabama was beyond what they were able to support.

What is intriguing about Henry Stuart’s story is that he, albeit somewhat eccentric has a sustenance, a depth that he is courageous enough to plumb in order to remain true to his philosophy of living. Henry is an ordinary man who has an extraordinary measure of courage and strength of identity. In the face of death he decides he will live each day in the freedom he chooses. In order to do this he steps outside roles that would interfere with his plans. He releases his sons from roles of caretakers as well as his best friend. As he takes this action he releases himself from the role of “sick person”. He doesn’t deny his illness but he won’t allow it to take over his living.

Henry did not take the path of least resistance as we humans are wont to do. Most of us in such a crisis would busy ourselves using our energy to avoid pain and try to get as comfortable as possible. Henry on the other hand decided to follow a different path whether it be bitter or sweet. His choices caused him much emotional and physical pain but on another level he experienced a bittersweet freedom especially of a spiritual nature. He expanded his ideas regarding the meaning of life; especially his life and his place in the world around him wherever he happened to be.

He became engaged in new and surprising ways in his chosen community. He did not limit the parameters of his life due to his illness. He shared of himself in whatever and whenever he saw a need, making an indelible impression on many lives.

As the story progresses Henry lived many years beyond his terminal medical diagnoses. As his life continued he was in turn he was a mentor, builder, cantankerous obstinate old man, generous, a philosopher poet depending on who was describing him. Lives were changed by encountering Henry for the better from beginning to end. What a life? What a story? What a reflection on living and dying?

As a Mental Health Professional I loved this story of a courageous, compassionate spiritually evolved man who did it “his way”. I highly recommend this book as a story of triumph in adversity.