When I turned the last page of Caravan Of No Despair: A Memoir of Loss and Transformation by Mirabai Starr, I closed my eyes because it felt like a holy moment. I had been witness to the sacred transformation of a mother who had traveled the arid wilderness of loss when her 14-year-old daughter Jenny died in a car accident.
I’m a self-confessed memoir junkie, and yet this book stands out in the landscape of personal stories. Here are five reasons why:
#1. The subject of transformation through loss is very dear to my heart, having lived through one myself when my beloved 68-year-old Amma died in India eight months after my family and I moved to the States (told in my memoir Losing Amma, Finding Home: A Memoir About Love, Loss and Life’s Detours).
#2. Mirabai’s life was deeply entwined with a knowing of the Divine. But the foundation of that relationship was rocked in the wake of her deep anguish. She talks about the wonderful paradox of feeling abandoned by God and also recognizing in some aspect of her being that ultimate solace can only be found through Source. Her experience mirrored my own–even though I didn’t know how to articulate it at the time as eloquently as Mirabai does.
#3. Being a lover of words, I was mesmerized by Mirabai’s prose–which sounded to me more like poetry. The cadence and rhythm of grief and loss have a melody all their own and Mirabai skilfully plays those strings. The result: a full-bodied resonance in my heart space.
#4. I grew up in a home where vulnerability was not a bad word. The words “The truth shall set you free” have been my mantra for the longest time. In letting me, the reader, feel the rawness of her heart and the nudity of her emotional terrain, Mirabai helped me rejoice in being utterly human. She reminded me that our most potent connection comes through grief as the pain of loss roars through our very being. You smile just like me, I hurt just like you, as singer Jana Stanfield says so beautifully. Mirabai doesn’t shy away from speaking her powerful truth–the good, the bad and the ugly. In reading her words and traveling alongside her, I felt a softening, an opening, a release.
#5. I love Mirabai’s place in the world as an inter-spiritual teacher and author. My own home altar has Infant Jesus, Mother Mary, a framed Serenity Prayer, Ganesha, Krishna, Lakshmi, Saraswati, a 108-bead Rudraksha mala and a bleeding Jesus on the cross. Mirabai weaves into her story aspects from various faith traditions–Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. This reminder that all paths lead to the One makes my heart sing. It’s something I’ve known since I was a little girl, though it took me many years to find the words and the voice to express my truth.
Reading A Caravan Of No Despair, I cried, I laughed, I sang, I hurt. It was like riding an emotional Ferris Wheel. Thank you, Mirabai, for being the universal voice for everyone who has known grief and needs a safe caravan ride home.