Joseph Luzzi in the New York Times:
“In the middle of our life’s journey, I found myself in a dark wood.”
So begins one of the most celebrated and difficult poems ever written, Dante’s “Divine Comedy,” a more than 14,000-line epic on the soul’s journey through the afterlife. The tension between the pronouns says it all: Although the “I” belongs to Dante, who died in 1321, his journey is also part of “our life.” We will all find ourselves in a dark wood one day, the lines suggest.
That day came six years ago for me, when my pregnant wife, Katherine, died suddenly in a car accident. Forty-five minutes before her death, she delivered our daughter, Isabel, a miracle of health rescued by emergency cesarean. I had left the house that morning at 8:30 to teach a class; by noon, I was a father and a widower.
A few days later, I found myself standing in a cemetery outside Detroit in the cold rain, watching as my wife’s body was returned to the earth close to where she was born. The words for the emotions I had known till then — pain, sadness, suffering — no longer made sense, as a feeling of cosmic, paralyzing sorrow washed over me. My personal loss felt almost beside the point: A young woman who had been bursting with life was now no more.