The Unwinding of the Miracle by Julie Yip-Williams, a Book Review

The Unwinding of the Miracle is a work about the richness of life and about facing our deaths directly, realistically and peacefully. The “Unwinding” is life’s process of dying.

In this case we have a memoir of the last five years in this brilliant, Chinese-Vietnamese refugee’s miraculous life on which to focus. The book is filled with beautiful memoirs about the richness and the agony of her last days as a Harvard law graduate with a lovely interracial marriage and two wonderful daughters, though legally blind since infancy.

Materially we learn about her tremendous physicality prior to a stage IV (metastatic) cancer diagnosis. Emotionally we are privy to a difficult childhood and her reliance on her family, friends and psychotherapist through the cancer turmoil. Spiritually, she believes in an afterlife, though not the Biblical view. She has some Buddhism in her spiritual life, though no specific religion is identified. Her husband is a Protestant who is a regular church attender. One of her daughters is particularly attracted to her father’s church. Her faith in God and a life after death have a substantive effect on her journey.

The book begins as we are told if we are reading her work she has now passed away. In some sense it is a lesson for all of us as we appreciate the heightened intensity of knowingly living one’s last days. It is a gripping beautiful work, particularly to those who love the genre of memoir. It operates at a meaningful depth for the reader as in these last days Ms. Yip-Williams wastes no words.

H. Robert Rubin, Amazon best selling memoirist and author of Look Backward Angel and How Did I Get Through This? available on Amazon

The Bagel, Oh the Contrasts

Per Amanda Fiegl on Smithsonian.com,”… bagels are mentioned in written records from Krakow as early as 1610…” (https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/a-brief-history-of-the-bagel-49555497/). For me they just date back to about 1948. I remember wandering through my dark, maternal grandparents place in Detroit as about a three year old tasting a morsel that was scrumptious, a bagel. We even must have had those delicacies with either lox or the ultimate, Nova Scotia salmon, a melt in your mouth addition. Of course that was piled high with some onion and a thick layer of Philadelphia Cream Cheese. That was living even for this three year old. Actually that is living even for a 73 year old, my senior version.

Ah, but time takes its toll on what we can eat. Almost twelve years ago my primary physician warned me about the dangers of carbohydrates to my future existence on planet earth.  A bagel clocks in at 53 grams and it turns to sugar quickly given its lack of fiber. Cream Cheese is one whopping sock of saturated fat, something I should be minimizing. Finally Nova and lox are smoked, apparently a carcinogenic process given the nitrates and nitrites in the smoking process.

Am I left only with rabbit food? Rabbits are kindly animals. Aren’t they? Don’t you love to see bunnies in the front yard?

Ah, but you don’t want to eat like one. I get it. Don’t let your youth go to waste. Before you can blink you will be old and growing long ears.

Time

Time is a deliberation that each of us must make with his or her own heart and soul. This is a paraphrase from the late Julie Yip-Williams’ memoir The Unwinding of a Miracle. Although Julie was a terminal, Stage IV, metastatic cancer victim at about 40, at 68, five years ago, I was much closer to my own demise than I was at 40.

It gave me pause to focus more keenly on the value of my time. In my professional efforts an enormous amount of detail work was necessary. “The devil was In the details,” as they say. Those details required large increments of the only life I have been given.

I became more concerned with the time I likely had left in the fortunate position where I could retire. I wanted to spend time with family, friends and great books. I wanted to know those close to me better and write some memoirs to connect to people I knew and people I didn’t.

A new journey began. Despite the vicissitudes of old age there has been something golden about this experience. Simply not having a boss is a grand relief. Doing in large part what I love is precious.

That God has granted me this time is a little like youth not being wasted on the young. God willing I am facing my final years with more of the wisdom of old age as opposed to the foolishness of youth. I have slowed down. It is hard to slow down after 68 years of haste but the newly found peace feeds my soul.

I appreciate that at 73 one phone call or one lab result can change the complexion of my life in an instant. I thank God for the opportunity to know Him, to know my spouse and to know my friends more closely. It is the gift of a lifetime.

H. Robert Rubin, Amazon best selling memoirist and author of two books available on Amazon, Look Backward Angel and How Did I Get Through This?

Never Enough

“I’m always amazed at how the beautiful and intelligent never feel quite beautiful or intelligent enough, how people constantly agonize over not being thin enough or charming enough.”

So said Julie Yip-Williams in her wonderful memoir published posthumously, The Unwinding of the Miracle.

Don’t we all at times measure ourselves by a performance standard? And at times don’t we measure our “lovability” by that standard?

We are all made in the image of God and loved by Him to an enormous depth we cannot measure. May God bless your maturation and mine with a growing awareness of His love.

H. Robert Rubin, MD, best selling, Amazon memoirist and author of Look Backward Angel and How Did I Get Through This? available on Amazon.

Still Writing by Dani Shapiro, a Book Review

Still Writing is both a writing textbook and a memoir. But though a text, it benefits from the lovely writing style of the author.

She says in her intro “…everything you need to know about life can be learned from a genuine and ongoing attempt to write.” The words certainly amplify the value of the writer’s work.

Writing is both her peace and her turmoil. She is driven to write but it is therapeutic. It is simple when she is in those transcendent moments but complex when she is not.

I like some humor interspersed amongst one’s serious writing. Anne Lamott does that. Dani Shapiro does not, at least in the now three memoirs I have read. However she writes so beautifully touching many chords in the reader that it is enriching to read her prose.

I recommend this book to even non-writers because Ms. Shapiro is a great storyteller. You may be a non-writer but most of us are storytellers. Don’t miss this one.

H. Robert Rubin, a best-selling, Amazon writer and author of Look Backward Angel, How Did I Get Through This? Please Save the Third Dance for Me (memoirs) and The Bloom is on the Rose (novelette), all available on Amazon.

Cellphone, the Good, the Bad and the Overused

It’s my watch, my alarm, my calendar, my voice only contact with the world, my file for “writing” ideas, my blank page for “writing,” my access to my blog/my published books/ Instagram/Facebook, and finally it is what separates me in real “Facetime” from my one, true, intimate relationship.

Am I making eye contact or phone contact with her? Am I seeing, listening and hearing with a whole heart.

And about that heart: Will I die using my phone? Will people notice I have died because I don’t seem to be answering? How have I lived without a cellphone for so many years?

It certainly is a boredom killer. I am sometimes disappointed when I get to the front of a grocery line because I am smack in the middle of a great book. The line becomes a transcendent experience instead of a boring one.

Dear Lord keep me off that phone and in my wife’s heart, the place I belong. And Lord please keep me by her side, phone off, ears lively and heart at one with hers. My phone is only a phone but after 41 years, SHE is my life.

H. Robert Rubin, MD, Amazon best selling memoirist and author of Look Backward Angel and How Did I Get Through This? available on Amazon.

Retirement at Five Years and Counting

The last third of my life? So far it has been five years and four days. This period of relief is a bountiful thing. Performance standards, to do lists, annual reviews, and the competition with others are elements of my life that have drifted into nothingness.

I am doing what I have always wanted to do: helping those in need, reading the best fiction and non-fiction ever penned, and publishing my memoirs.

I have focused on several qualities in need of refinement in my soul: patience, tenderness and warmth. I am learning to tell better stories and connect to others more fully, particularly my wife of 41 years, Kristine.

Yes, I am old. Thank God I have lived long enough to be called old. It is one beautiful place to be.

H. Robert Rubin, memoirist and Amazon best selling author of Look Backward Angel and How Did I Get Through This? available on Amazon.

Science and a Judeo-Christian Point of View

Twelve step programs work and rely on trusting God. Prayer has been demonstrated scientifically to have had an impact on health. Scientific studies rely on a statistical level of significance not certainty. When the extremely unlikely statistically changes one’s life one can consider a higher power in another dimension has had an impact.

Evolution that is not a series of accidents but is the purpose of a higher power is a tenable position. The complexity of the human mind seems to be well beyond the realm of accidental genesis.

The Jews brought monotheism to the world in the early history of civilization. They still exist despite persecution for centuries and these effective people including notable scientists in large part still believe in the precious God they worship.

I have a scientific degree at the doctoral level and have published research. The director of NIH is a strong Christian believer. Bottom line, a strong belief in God and the validity of science have walked hand in hand for centuries. Christians, originally a recognized sect of Judaism, started the initial hospitals and universities.

Let us not remain in separate silos but share ideas about the nature and extent of REALITY without biases that simply get in our way.