The Red Ribbon: A Memoir of Lightning and Rebuilding After Loss

The Red Ribbon: A Memoir of Lightning and Rebuilding After Loss

by Nancy Freund Bills


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In the summer of 1994, a freak lightning and thunder storm explodes on the southern coast of Maine, killing Nancy Bills’s husband and critically wounding her younger son. She promises her late husband that she will write their family’s story and bind it with a red ribbon of love and courage.

In language alternately tender and gritty, The Red Ribbon documents the aftermath of Bills’s husband’s death. As a wife, she grieves and attempts to rebuild her life; as a mother, she strains to be the parent her young adult sons need. Then, one year later, she is faced with more loss—this time, the father whom she adores. After his death, other deaths, some anticipated and others unpredictable, follow. Meanwhile, the impending death of her aging mother is a particular challenge; Nancy struggles to be a good daughter, and on many visits to Montana, her home state, she tries to mend their painful history.

Insightful, moving, and full of intelligence and humanity, The Red Ribbon is a story of surviving the many and often devastating lightning strikes of life, and a gift of compassion and wisdom for readers who are struggling with their own losses

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781631525735
Publisher: She Writes Press
Publication date: 05/28/2019
Pages: 216
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x (d)

About the Author

Nancy Bills is currently on the faculty of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Southern Maine, OLLI/USM, where she facilitates the fiction writing workshop. She is also a retired clinical social worker; during her twenty-year-long career, she served both as a psychiatric social worker at Concord Regional Hospital in New Hampshire and Maine Medical Center in Portland, Maine, and as a psychotherapist at Green House Group, a group private practice in Manchester, New Hampshire. “The Myth,” Chapter 19 of The Red Ribbon, received first place in the memoir/personal essay category of the 83rd Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition. Her memoir, fiction, and poetry have been published in Reflections, The Maine Review, The LLI Review, The Goose River Anthology, and in The 83rd Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition Collection. A member of the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance (MWPA), she lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, with her two Maine Coon cats.

Table of Contents

Authors Note ii

Prologue: The Summer Sky 1

Part I Arcs And Sparks

Chapter 1 Arcs and Sparks 7

Chapter 2 Off the Dock 15

Chapter 3 The Clippings 20

Chapter 4 The Pizza Box 23

Chapter 5 The Emptying and Filling of the Drawer 27

Chapter 6 A Head of Lettuce 29

Chapter 7 Mr. Puss 33

Chapter 8 Smuttynose 35

Chapter 9 Riding Shotgun 41

Chapter 10 The Oak Box 45

Chapter 11 Escaping Grief's Kitchen 51

Chapter 12 One Quarter of the Ashes 63

Chapter 13 Dream Number 1, Driving with Geoff 69

Chapter 14 Triage and Cows 71

Chapter 15 Stone House 75

Chapter 16 Growing Out of Grief 80

Chapter 17 Dream Number 2, Dead Weight 82

Chapter 18 Fort Foster 85

Chapter 19 The Myth 89

Part II My Season Of Death

Chapter 1 My Season of Death 95

Chapter 2 The Old Spaniel 99

Chapter 3 The Beaches 100

Chapter 4 History with Geoff, Number 1, Surprise Inspection 104

Chapter 5 History with Geoff, Number 2, The Last Dance 107

Chapter 6 History with Geoff, Number 3, Lima Beans 111

Chapter 7 The Protest 115

Chapter 8 Baby in the Back Room 120

Chapter 9 Leaping into Limbo 125

Chapter 10 Teddy's History, Gentle to Market 129

Chapter 11 Planting Iris 136

Chapter 12 More Planting Iris 142

Chapter 13 The Photograph 147

Chapter 14 Last Words 151

Chapter 15 In the Shower 156

Chapter 16 Making an Exit 161

Chapter 17 The Patriots' Day Storm 165

Chapter 18 Burial at Sea 169

Chapter 19 An Ode to Tapioca 173

Chapter 20 Atonement 178

Chapter 21 What about Chester? 184

Chapter 22 The Merry-Go-Round 188

Epilogue: On the Other Side 191

Afterword 195

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