Sing Me To Heaven: The Story of a Marriage
Margaret Kim Peterson
224 pages, $19.95
My God And I: A Spiritual Memoir
Lewis B. Smedes
William B. Eerdmans
198 pages, $20
In an e-mail message to some friends, I called Sing Me to Heaven an "AIDS memoir." It was useful shorthand, but it was misleading.
Sing Me to Heaven is instead (as the book's cover says) the "story of a marriage." But it is the story of a compressed marriage in which the presence of HIV and then AIDS is a constant reminder that this marriage will be short, one into which much emotional intimacy and mutual discovery and reciprocal caring must packed.
In so many of our marriages, we act like we have decades to get to know each other and to take the risks of self-disclosure. If a particular personal revelation is too challenging or an annoying habit is too difficult to talk about today, we discuss something else—or see what's on TV. Our marriages lack intention, and procrastinate our relationships to death.
Margaret and Hyung Goo Kim could not afford to dawdle. They had four years, not forty.
The title of the first chapter, "The Most Beautiful of Absolute Disasters," sets the tone for the book's fundamental puzzle: How is it possible to experience goodness in the midst of evil? Margaret Kim Peterson testifies repeatedly that it is indeed possible. "Alongside the awfulness … our marriage bloomed, like a little flower in the midst of a desert," she writes. AIDS, she says, was not good. But "the particular good that Hyung Goo and I experienced together in the midst of AIDS" could not have been obtained "in any other way."
As Hyung Goo was dying, she writes, "We had had a table prepared before us; even death standing there looking at us couldn't take away all ...1