Both Sides Now: A true story of love, loss and bold living

Author: Bevin Landrum

Both Sides Now Book CoverWatching our loved one pass away after a long illness is a grueling nightmare that ushers in change in an expected, but still devastating manner. Many TAPS families have endured just this type of heartbreak. In the pages of Nancy Sharp’s book, “Both Sides Now,” they will find a blend of love, humor and reminiscence that begins to unravel the jumbled life we all face on the other side of loss.

As a young mother, Sharp faced a crisis out of the natural order.  Her healthy husband, father of their two small children, was dying of cancer.  She passionately writes about the happy kismet of their early relationship and deals candidly with the hard days during his treatment and the realization that he was not going to get better.  The end would come. 

Her halting thoughts during the months after Brett passed away were surprisingly easy to read.  Reassuring her children when her own heart was broken.  Finding organization and purpose in her career when everything felt in a shambles.  A journey back to faith on her own terms.  The need for people who understand grief and tragedy.  Those who know, "there will never be an acceptable answer to the question of why it happened." All themes which run strong in our TAPS family and are relatable for those seeking a shared identity amid the strange otherness in which we now live. 

Throughout the first part of the book, Sharp struggles with the very different way she and her husband handle his illness, but eventually grasps that there is no right or wrong way, only the way that is enough for you to get through the experience.  She held tightly to this knowledge two years after Brett's death when she made the bold step to leave her East Coast roots and strike off for the healing mountains of Colorado.  Her decision to find something more in life than only being a young widow was anchored in her understanding of hope as a life source. Eventually, Sharp finds love and remarriage in 2008 with a widower. Together, their blended family is a testament to the seasons of life.

The chapters and thoughts are short.  The author admits she couldn't focus or write long because of her grief, and this makes it easy to read for someone also grieving.  She gives the reader just enough words to stimulate our thoughts and touch our hearts without overwhelming us.  This is an easy book to put down and come back to later without losing the narrative thread. 

The book reads differently over time, so give yourself the space to reread it or to work through parts at different stages in your grief.  It's definitely a book to keep around for a while.  I first read it after my father passed away from a long struggle with Parkinson's.  I wanted so desperately to find some key to making the expected nature of his death and his release from pain be enough to soothe my grieving heart.  Her experience quickly made me realize that even expected death cannot reconcile the two sides of our lives: with our loved one and without them.  Instead, we question our own mortality, fear the loss of others close to us and must come to understand that life is worth living and there is hope in our tomorrow.  

Reading it for a second time, I'm struck with how the author captures the essence of bravery that sustained her husband through his illness.  We often feel fragile in our grief, but any survivor can find inspiration and courage in the pages of this book knowing that our loved ones are with us in spirit all the time. 

Gone, but not forgotten.  Loved just as much on this side as on the other side of life. 

Both sides now. 

Reviewed by Bevin Landrum, Book by Nancy Sharp