Twentyone Olive Trees: A Mother’s Walk Through the Grief of Suicide to Hope and Healing
“What if death is just the beginning of life?” With that question, author Laura Formentini dives into an exploration of loss that will ultimately help her heal from the feelings evoked by her son’s suicide. Twentyone Olive Trees is a beautiful book of transformation and courage.
To work through the loss of her “soul mate” and son Blaise, Formentini spent the year following his death writing, meditating, and developing plans to honor her son’s life. She did this because great loss challenges what we see as our meaning and purpose in life. In choosing not to give in to pain, she was building a legacy for herself and her son.
Meditation was part of her healing process. By participating in a twice daily meditation practice, Formentini was able to witness Blaise’s passing as a natural form of transformation. This, and the feeling of oneness meditators can experience, allowed her to find peace, and sometimes even joy. Yes, the physical connection to her son was gone, but through meditation, Formentini was able to tap into answers to some of the larger spiritual questions she faced in the immediate aftermath of Blaise’s passing.
Creative expression was also part of Formentini’s healing. She wrote this book as a sort of love letter from mother to son.
The book is organized into 21 chapters, one for each year of Blaise’s life. Each chapter consists of a poem, a fable, and an illustration of the story. There is also a visual olive grove throughout the book.
One of the exceptional aspects of this book is Marit Cooper’s illustrations. There is a folk art quality to them reminiscent of illustrations used in some versions of Aesop’s Fables or collections of fairy tales. The images create texture for the fables, adding depth that would be missing if the book was text alone.
The poems are profound, vacillating between heartbreaking and uplifting. They provide a window into the journey toward becoming connected to the ineffable, and at the same time express the intense love that continues after our loved ones die.
The 21 stories are true fables. They have a lesson: hope, transformation, inspiration, commitment to others, and love. In the stories there is learning, laughter, and happiness —not necessarily what one would expect in a book about overcoming the grief and loss that comes after suicide.
If anything, Twentyone Olive Trees is life-affirming. Out of tragedy, Formentini is committed to building a literal physical place for growth, where she will plant 21 olive trees to nurture. This book is a starting place for that physical manifestation. It is in every way about personal development and using life’s darkest times as a means to becoming someone we never thought we could become.
“Where there is love, there cannot be any fear.” That’s the book’s ultimate lesson. Whatever life gives us, we are on a journey of spiritual enhancement. We get to choose whether to live in light or in darkness.
Laura Formentini’s Twentyone Olive Trees is an impeccably crafted book. It will inspire and delight, and is salve for a wounded heart. On every page it whispers the message, “I love you.”