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Grief journey

By NAN BIALEK

February 2014

Before his death in a bike race in Chicago in 2008, Matthew Manger-Lynch was a passionate professional chef and avid cyclist.

Barbara Manger had just finished a meditation session at a yoga retreat in Houston when she picked up her phone and heard the news that would plunge her into what she later called "a dark tunnel of grief."

It was Feb. 24, 2008. Mangerís adored son, Matthew Manger-Lynch, 29, had been riding in a bike race in Chicago when he was struck and killed by an oncoming vehicle.

Manger says she does not remember much about the trip back home to Milwaukee. Her son Luke and Lukeís wife, Kathy, accompanied her on the flight home, and her husband, Bill Lynch, was waiting at the airport, all of them stunned by shock and disbelief.

Her recently published book, "Riding Through Grief," chronicles the journey of Manger-Lynchís family as they make their way through the aftermath of his death. Gently and with extraordinary grace, Manger documents the emotions of a mother trying to make sense of it all.

Although Manger, an artist, art educator and author, had received acclaim for her earlier books ó "Mary Nohl: Inside and Out, a Biography of the Artist," and a young personís version, "Mary Nohl: A Lifetime in Art" ó she says she did not set out to write about this deeply personal experience.

"I just kind of started writing," she recalls. "I might be riding my bike somewhere and Iíd put notes on my cell phone."

Writing coach Judy Bridges encouraged her to organize those stories into a book that might be helpful for others who are grieving or trying to cope with a devastating loss. Kurt Chandler, who had edited the Mary Nohl books, helped to edit "Riding Through Grief," Manger says.

"It was very difficult to write, but I think it was really very healing for me to do it, too, just to review Mattís life and our time together," Manger says. "Iíd find myself laughing, it was just a good experience to recollect the past and kind of savor the stories, a lot of which were not in the book. It helped me to remember things that Iíd long ago forgotten."

Manger-Lynch was a passionate professional chef and avid cyclist, and lived full speed ahead in what his mother describes as "bursts."

In the book, Manger writes: "When Matt entered a room, it was with a burst of sunshiny energy. He filled any space with it. I do not think he was aware of the effect of his presence. Nor would he know the effect of his absence."

Manger-Lynchís personality permeates the book, in a middle-school essay, in one of the few recipes heíd written down, and in the stories told by his family and many good friends. Some of their memories of him were written shortly after his death, others specifically for the book.

"I feel really lucky to have these things that they wrote," Manger says.

"Riding Through Grief" is not a "how-to" book, she notes.

"Iím not any expert on grief. Iíve experienced it, but thatís all. Iíve absorbed the grief and now Iím beyond merely functioning," Manger says. "I donít think grieving really stops. You learn how to live with it Ö I really hope the book can bring solace or peace to others who are grieving."

World Meet Visuals at Library

When the new East Branch of the Milwaukee Public Library opens this fall, the work of two local artists, Santiago Cucullu and kathryn e. martin, will greet book lovers. The library commissioned the pair to create public art installations for the new wing, encouraging the artists to incorporate aspects of the local neighborhood and community into their designs.

Inspired by the diversity and shared experience of library patrons, Cuculluís mural series will unite imagery from architectural elements of existing libraries throughout the city. Martinís piece focuses on the areaís topography and its inherent beauty. Using reclaimed wood from trees removed by the new branchís construction, she will create a topographic map of Milwaukeeís East Side, carving geographical contours and lines into the wood.

"These two artists demonstrate unique styles, the ability to engage the community in their design and previous experience creating public art," says Paula Kiely, Milwaukee Public Library director. "For the library, public art is an important part of creating an engaging community space."

Both artists have exhibited extensively and are actively involved in the local art community. Cucullu is an adjunct faculty member at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design, and martin lectures at UW-Milwaukee.

Go to www.mpl.org/eastlibrary to view the artistsí submissions. 

 


This story ran in the February 2014 issue of: