By Rita J. Egan
While working on her first book, “Through a Family’s Eyes: A True Story,” Debra Lindner Bauer from Ronkonkoma wrote her way out of the darkest period in her life. For years, the former stay-at-home mom now grandmother, was overcome by grief after the tragic death in 2007 of her 27-year-old son, Stephen J. Bauer Jr.
In the book, the author presents a raw and honest look at what family members, especially parents, endure after the loss of a young person. Bauer is frank about her experiences and feelings after the motor vehicle accident that took her son’s life, and in addition to her own writings, she included contributions from family members and friends, which provide a larger picture of the depth of loss.
Bauer, who admits she cried nonstop for three years, said in a recent interview, “There isn’t a day that goes by that my husband and I, and all of us, don’t miss him.”
The writer said she and her family will never know exactly what happened on that icy night, but from what emergency workers could decipher, Steve’s car slid on the ice and hit a mailbox and then a tree. The young man, who was on his way to meet his father to help him plow, hit the side glass of his vehicle and bled out, outside his truck.
After receiving a call from her son’s girlfriend at 10:30 p.m. on the night of Feb. 25, 2007, Bauer and her husband, Stephen, raced to the scene of the accident. Emergency personnel couldn’t allow them to go near their son at the site of the accident, so Bauer followed them to the hospital. When she arrived, the nurse told her that they had just cleaned Steve up, and she could talk to him. After a few minutes, the nurse informed her that the doctors were ready to work on him, but the health professional checked his pulse and found he had none.
“There our journey began,” Bauer said. The accident devastated the writer, her husband and their two daughters, Jennifer and Lisa. “You’re never the same again,” she said.
After the passing of her son, Bauer was overwhelmed by the amount of people who offered their condolences and support. One subject the writer touches on in her book is some of the things people say to someone who has lost a loved one, both appropriate and inappropriate.
“I don’t take it personally, because they don’t know what to say to you,” Bauer said.
The author admitted that a few people said insensitive things, such as that she should be happy because at least she had her son for 27 years. She suggested that, when people don’t know what to say, to just hug the person, even though she said it brightens her day when someone mentions Stephen by name and a memory of him. She explained that the first few years, people would be a bit uncomfortable when she would bring up his name.
The author also suggested that a great way to help a grieving family is by dropping off some home-cooked food or picking up groceries instead of flowers. She said families receive so many flowers after a loved one passes that sometimes they go to waste. After her son’s funeral, Bauer brought the flowers home and set them on her lawn because she couldn’t bear to just throw them out.
The author said that even though it’s still difficult, the first few years were the hardest. Bauer said she couldn’t get off the couch, turned to alcohol and even prescription pills. While she’s been clean for 4 years now, she admits to being addicted to Percocet for 3 years.
“I have come a very long way, and I’m lucky to be alive to tell the story too,” Bauer said.
Writing the book provided a way of managing her pain that was even better than exercising or social activities, according to the author. Earlier in the writing process, Bauer didn’t even use a computer, because she said she never had the patience to learn how to use one.
She started recording her memories of her son’s life, and her feelings about his passing, a year-and-a-half after losing him, by writing them down on paper. When she completed her writings, her sister-in-law Kathy typed them up and edited them. After she sent the manuscript to the publisher, it was in their hands for two years and Bauer had to work on 13 revisions.
Now that the book is released, the author is proud that she realized she had to do more than sit around on the couch and has been able to share her son’s story.
“Everybody says you’re so happy, you glow now. I accomplished something huge in my life,” she said.
Even her 16-year-old grandson, who recently read the book about his father, said after he finished, “You’ve come a long way, Grandma.”
Bauer continues to keep herself busy promoting her book and is currently designing sympathy cards for those who have lost a child. The writer said that she and others who have lost children have found that there aren’t many suitable cards for parents.
While Bauer admits that things will never be the same for her and her family, she now knows that things can improve. The writer is feeling better than she has in a long time, and she hopes that parents who share her sorrow will read “Through a Family’s Eyes” so they know that they are not alone. She also hopes that parents who haven’t experienced such a tragedy will read the book so they can understand what a family goes through and have more empathy.
“People can learn things. Maybe they can be even more appreciative of their kids,” she said.
Bauer’s advice to other grieving parents is, “Find something that makes you happy. I think writing is great therapy. They could always use new books out there — true stories. There might be people that just want to hear your story, especially if it’s true.”
“Through a Family’s Eyes: A True Story” is available on Amazon.com and at www.debralindnerbauer.com for $23.