In his previous books, local author Rudy Hoggard has written about riding the rails across the country and his memories of growing up. But for his latest work, Hoggard tackled his most difficult subject yet by far.
Hoggard’s new book “A Place Called Grief: Finding my Way through the Death of our Son” is unlike any other work he’s written. It is both a tribute to his late son Eben and a description of how he, his wife Molly and their family coped with Eben’s tragic death at age 27.
“Molly and I have been in this journey together,” said Hoggard.
The death of a child is probably more painful, tragic and traumatic than any other kind of loss. In this day and age, parents are naturally not expected to bury their children. Rather, the younger generation often has the duty of seeing that their parents receive the proper care as they age and approach the end of life.
But sometimes parents are suddenly confronted with the death of a child. Those who have experienced it say it is a loss unlike any other.
Rudy and Molly Hoggard have been in that situation. They had four children: Amy Hoggard Vanderpool, Rebecca Hoggard, Eben Loren Hoggard and Jeremy Hoggard.
Eben was their third child. A 1998 graduate of McDowell High, he was a graduate of the Apprentice School associated with Northrop Grumman of Newport News, Va. and received the coveted Niels Christiansen Award. After he graduated from the apprentice school, he worked as an electrical supervisor in the shipyards at Newport News and took part in the construction of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush.
“He was strong in his personhood,” said his mother Molly. “When he left home to go to Virginia, he really came into his own.”
But, Eben’s young life was cut short when he was killed on his motorcycle in Sept. 24, 2007. He was on his way to work when a vehicle turned left in front of him in the Newport News traffic.
It was the shocking end to a young life with so much promise for the future.
As to be expected, his family was not prepared to deal with this loss.
“We didn’t plan to bury our son so we had no gravesite,” said Hoggard.
His parents had to purchase a burial plot as well as plan and pay for a funeral no one had expected to happen so soon. They bought three burial plots at the Chapel Hill Baptist Church cemetery and Eben was laid to rest there.
“We may be buried there as well,” said Hoggard.
A celebration of Eben’s life was held Sept. 25, 2007 in Newport News, Va. while the funeral took place at Story Memorial Presbyterian Church on Sept. 29, 2007 with the burial at Chapel Hill Baptist cemetery.
The family received a tremendous outpouring of love and support from friends and the local community. But they still had to cope with what happened after the funeral was over and folks had gone back to their everyday lives.
Following this tragedy, Hoggard turned to his writing as a way to cope with the loss. In addition to his books, he is a contributor to The McDowell News and for several years has written popular Christmas stories.
“After this happened, people would ask me how many kids you got,” he said. “One day, I wrote a 14-page article so I wouldn’t have to keep telling it.”
He also wanted to write about the pain from this loss so others could better understand.
“A lot of people don’t know how to handle grieving people,” said Hoggard. “We have a new normal. The best thing you can do is verify their pain.”
Hoggard expanded his 14-page article into a book detailing the journey he, his wife and their family have been through and continue to go experience.
In this book, Hoggard deals with the shock, learning and living the stages of grief, questioning his faith and purpose in life. His son’s death brought un-expecting, all-consuming, over-whelming, unpredictable grief.
“The rush to find answers to the questions, why my son died young,” Hoggard said, “I have traveled through a process of grief with arguments, despair, self-examination, self-pity resistance, melancholy, theorizing and a roller coaster of emotions.”
The faith of Rudy and Molly Hoggard was severely tested.
“That was my struggle and Molly’s too,” said Hoggard. He said they didn’t lose their faith in God but they went through the process of “learning to find our place again in our faith.”
The book is also a tribute to Eben with thoughts and comments from those who knew him well.
Hoggard’s book, “A Place Called Grief: Finding my Way through the Death of our Son,” can be purchased at MACA at 50 S. Main Street in Marion or ordered through Amazon.com or any bookstore like Barnes & Noble. It is 292 pages and sells for $11.95.