Friday, September 1, 2017

UUAWOL nonfiction book for September, 2017 - Here If You Need Me by Kate Braestrup

Thank you Maria for your interest in this month's UUAWOL nonfiction book selection, Here If You Need Me by Kate Braestrup. Having lost your own husband you might be able to identify with Kate's circumstances when her husband is killed suddenly in a car crash and she is left with four young children. You have been in a similar situation and I have admired your resilience and ability to grieve and yet continue to function to carry out your responsibilities to yourself, your children, your extended family, and your community.

From what I know about your life, Maria, you have become an activist protesting the police abuses especially toward minorities while Braestrup went back to school and became an ordained minister in the Maine Warden Service providing religious support when the Conservation officers were dealing with a tragedy. It seems to me that you and Kate have done similar work in different roles in the service of different causes but a ministry none the less.

Because of your similar experiences your thoughts about Braestrup's book will be of particular interest and use. What I believe you and Kate have in common is a way of turning grief into determined efforts to relieve the suffering in the world and make it a better place. Your membership in Unitarian Universalist churches also is a common factor and it may be of interest to readers of UUAWOL to learn how the UU faith and values have helped you manage your tragedies and reconfiguration of your lives on a new level.

We look forward to your comments on the book.



  1. As a Social Worker we conceptualize our practice at the macro level, mezzo level, and micro level. Macro would be community organization, mezzo would be family and group work, and micro would be clinical work with individuals and couples. It seems like if we applied the same model to ministry, Kate Braestrup's work was pastoral or micro while Maria's was community organizing or macro.

    I love Braestrup's book and I'm very glad you chose it as the nonfiction book for September. My favorite part is when she chose to wash her husband's body in preparation for burial.

  2. Love it! Love it! Loved it!. Read Kate's book five years ago and is one of my favorites by a UU author. She is my kind of woman and I wish I knew her in personal life because I would like to be friends with her if she'd have me. She seems a bit more serious and thoughtful than I am but I would love picking her brain. I look forward to the other discussion about this wonderful, luminous, book.

  3. Great book. Braestrup is a wonderful writer and a very kind and compassionate person with a great sense of humor. The book starts off with a bang with her description of the manhunt for the Moore's little girl Allison and the time Reverend Braestrup waits with them will the wardens search for the little girl. The Moore's tell Rev. Braestrup that they are not only not church people but they are atheists to boot,and Braestrup never seems to lose a beat but extends her love and compassion to them without any hesitation. What great modeling of love and compassion for every person.......

  4. Rev. Braestrup writes when waiting with the Moore's to hear about the results of the manhunt for their daughter, Allison, lost somewhere in the Maine woods, Mr Moore says to her, "Look, Reverend," Mr. Moore says, gesturing into the darkness. "I know these guys have to keep looking. I can tell they are putting on a brave face for Marian here. But you can tell me the truth." Mr. Moore wants to know the truth, if his daughter is dead. If she is, Mr. Moore trusts that Rev. Braestrup, the chaplain, would be honest and strong enough to tell him. Part of her job is doing "death notifications." It takes a special person to be able to do this kind of work. It takes strength and compassion and self composure. I have had to do it a few times in my career as a chaplain and it is always difficult. I appreciate Rev. Braestrup's sensitive and yet straight forward story telling about this situaions.

  5. I am enjoying Braestrup's book very much. Thank you for suggesting it for discussion. I like the part in the introduction where she explains, having studied Greek in seminary, how the word that is translated "Word" in the beginning of John's gospel when John writes, "In the beginning was the word..." that the word, "word", or logos could also be translated as "story" and Braistrup writes, "A minister in the Christian tradition must give voice to the Logos, she is a teller of stories." Well put, and Braestrup's book is a great story based on her life.

  6. Kate Braestrup is what is called a "teacher of God." She teaches by the way she lives her life and interacts with people. When Braestrup introduces herself to Ralph Moore in chapter one Ralph says, "We're not churchgoers," and Braestrup answers with a shrug and a smile, "I'm not a church minister."

    Kate Braestrup's ministry doesn't involve a church but a chaplaincy to the Maine Warden Service and so her church is the whole outdoors in the State of Maine and her ministry is not confined to a building. We all are called to be teachers of God. Some of are more aware of this and intentional than others. Kate Braestrup is one of those more rare souls who is not only a teacher of God, but knows it, and inspires other people to become aware and respond to their calling as teachers of God as well.

  7. Rev. Braestrup always describes the Maine State Troopers and the Maine Warden Conservation officers in positive and appreciative terms but when she decides she is going to tend to and wash her husband's body for cremation, long being "women's work" until it was professionalized in the mortuary business, the Maine Trooper administration apparently initially object as if they have jurisdiction over Kate's dead husband's body. As a Maine State Trooper they did have jurisdiction but no longer. Braestrup writes, "Trooper Tom Ballard came to the house Wednesday morning to tell me that I would be permitted to tend to Drew's body. 'They wanted to talk you out of it,' he said soberly. 'I told them that I've known you for a long time and that I've never been able to talk you out of or into anything, and neither has anyone else."

    Who are the Maine State Troopers "to permit" her to tend to her husband's body? They seem out of line. Maybe they were being protective thinking that in her grief was not in her right mind and yet this sounds chauvanistic to me. Luckily they respect Kate as a strong woman enough to not be condescending, patronizing, and dominating. Police are an para military organizations and historically have been patronizing and subjugating organizations and cultures when it comes to women. Kate Braistrup is one of those feminist leaders who won't be pushed around and in her assertiveness she carries out her business not waiting in a submissive way for their permission.

  8. Thanks for suggesting this book. I am going to ask at church on Sunday if there is any interest in discussing it in a meeting at our church.

  9. David,

    I turned to UU prior to my husband's death but his death solidified my commitment to UU values. As Mexican American my family and I have become suspect in Trump's America. Our fellow citizens have been told that we are rapists and drug dealers and illegal in white America's space. When my husband was killed in spite of all the grief, anger, and fear, my biggest worry was what to tell my children about the country they are living in given what they and their friends are seeing and hearing on the TV every day and being subjected to as they go about their daily lives.

    My heart goes out to Kate Braestrup and her family but she is a white woman who was married to a State Trooper and she and her husband and children are not suspect just by existing in their state and community and demonized by the President of the United States and his supporters. I would like Rev. Braestrup and her children to meet me and my children but not because what we have in common is that our husbands and our childrens' fathers died but because we share our UU faith in the inherent dignity and worth of every person and are working to make the world a better place. It is hard to reassure one's children when their friends and the parents of their friends are frightened to move freely about their communities no matter how good of people they are. Whether a child loses their father to death or deportation, families are devastated just the same.