A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Letting Go

By Cheryl Krauter

Odyssey of Ashes book by Cheryl KrauterIn ODYSSEY OF ASHES: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Letting Go, Cheryl Krauter describes losing her soulmate suddenly and unexpectedly. The night her beloved husband, John, died, he had decided to go sit in the family room, worried that he’d keep Cheryl awake while he took care of a terrible back ache. Shortly after he settled in his chair, Cheryl heard a series of frightening sounds, one like a roaring wind, then silence.

Told in two parts, this beautifully written memoir begins with the ritual of scattering John’s ashes and then moves to the mythological and spiritual, to address the rocky and isolating emotional terrain of grief. Connecting the two parts is Cheryl’s description of Los Días de los Muertos, the three days each year when she builds an altar to remember and honor her deceased loved ones.

John was an avid fly fisherman, dedicated to the sport, and as she wades through her grief, Cheryl finds herself literally wading through rivers. Every year, John had entered a charity contest to win a free weekend at a major fly-fishing spot. He did it to support Cheryl, who as a breast cancer survivor had been supported by the organization, but also because it was his dream to fish the best rivers.

Ironically, five months after he died, his name was drawn. Cheryl takes his place, bringing his ashes along to set John to rest where he most loved to be, on the water.

But navigating her day-to-day world while at the same time living in a twin world of absence and memory makes Cheryl feel like the mythical character, Mis, the wild woman of Irish mythology. In the throes of grief, Mis railed and raged but never sank. Eventually, she rejoined the living.

For Cheryl, John’s death was such a blow that she couldn’t process it immediately and though she functioned well, like Mis, it took time before she emerged from that twilight of loss.

In her powerful account, Cheryl recognizes the ways in John’s passing has changed her life, how she must carry on while still carrying a deep sadness at their parting. But she does find her path to saying goodbye, and she lets the roots of their love give her strength as she moves on with her life.

In this poetic and profound remembrance, sprinkled with humor, Cheryl Krauter notes that her experience is not singular, that we all face such ruptures, and she shares her journey from overwhelming grief to acceptance and peace as an offering of hope, as well as a testament to resilience and the possibility of healing.

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“What a moving book about loss and mourning. Cheryl finds solace in, among other things, trout fishing, rituals, Buddhist wisdom—and, luckily for us, writing about her experiences.”
A.J. Jacobs, editor-at-large of Esquire magazine; author of Thanks a Thousand: A Gratitude Journey

“In this engrossing memoir, Krauter shares her journey through the deep waters of grief. Her graceful writing reminds us that the cycle of love and loss is as natural as the river current, and it is only through fully embracing the force of the waters that dry land can eventually be found.”
Allison J. Applebaum, PhD, Director, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center Caregivers Clinic; Editor of “Cancer Caregivers”

“With profound insight, Cheryl explores the spiritual nature of life and death, the sacred connection between love and loss, life and death. A work of depth and infinite caring, this book is ultimately a gift of love, hope, and survival.”
Cindy Rasicot, author of Finding Venerable Mother: A Daughter’s Spiritual Quest to Thailand

“This compelling and heart-warming memoir draws upon your heartstrings. The story chronicles the unexpected death of the author’s husband. Her pain for her loss emanates from each page, creating a path of empathy for her suffering. Fly-fishing, the great passion of her husband that she shared, remains a primary theme woven throughout the story. The path she takes to healing is explored through the reality and metaphor of fly fishing. This book wraps its arms around you and takes hold of your soul. I highly recommend this heartfelt and beautifully written book. Odyssey of Ashes is a must-read memoir.”
Dr. Joan Steidinger, author of Stand Up and Shout Out: Women’s Fight for Equal Pay, Equal Rights, & Equal Opportunities in Sport

“Cheryl Krauter’s gripping memoir traces her journey as she slowly heals from her husband’s unexpected death. Her descriptions of his death itself and of her frantic, disoriented interactions with police and paramedics are raw and unforgettable. Her later encounters with helpers, such as a hungry hummingbird and a Montana fly fisherman named “Dirty Mike,” are wry and poignant. Krauter’s book pulses with sorrow and fierce aliveness as she grapples with the finality of death.”
Kathryn Ridall, PhD, author of Dreaming at the Gates: How Dreams Guide Us

“This is a tender and courageous love story of Cheryl Krauter’s sacred journey through grief and loss of her dear husband John. Her lyrical writing flows like the rivers we travel on with her, touching the wild river of her soul. A story that does not end but reaches beyond into myth, ritual, and the archetype of sorrow and renewal of the wild woman inside her.”
Barbara Sapienza, author of Anchor Out and The Laundress

“Though no one experiences the loss of a loved one in the same way, you need to add Cheryl Krauter’s Odyssey of Ashes to the shelf of great modern books on grief. Starting with the night of her husband’s death — the suddenness, the casual care and callousness of those who responded— and ending with an evocation of Mexico’s Day of the Dead, this memoir covers a lot of territory. She’s a cancer survivor herself, and the couple already knew to treat each day as if it were their last. Death puts that knowledge to the test, and this book is her testimony.”
Sean Elder, co-author of Great Is the Truth: Secrecy, Scandal and the Quest for Justice at the Horace Mann School

Odyssey of Ashes is a poignant, intimate journey through the grief of losing a loved one to recovery. Cheryl Krauter is not afraid to honestly share her struggles and triumphs.  She draws the reader in as a fisherman reels in a catch, and having worked with Cheryl for several years, I expected nothing less.”
Andrea Knobloch, Medical Editor, Oxford University Press