A husband’s journey in the valley of the shadow
By Robert Birks, Major –
I first read the manuscript for “Losing Leticia” last year. I read it for several reasons, not the least of which being that I wanted to get to know my boss better. I knew Major Brian Saunders as a cadet and as a young College for Officer Training (CFOT) staff officer, but we had not served together in the 23 years separating my commissioning and my appointment as the Assistant Principal at CFOT. Because of this, I did not experience with him the dark nights of the soul described in this book. Not only did I get to know him better as I read each chapter, but God, the Holy Spirit, used this book to expose some areas in my life that lacked an unflinching trust in God, the Father.
Don’t let the size of this book fool you. This is not an easy read. Seemingly, no punches were pulled for Saunders in “Losing Leticia.” Thankfully he didn’t see fit to pull any for us either. He tells hard truths and shares behind-the-scenes details, thoughts and feelings, bravely opening himself up to the reader’s scrutiny and judgment. One will not find, within these pages, a “10 Steps to Painless Grieving” program. Nor does Saunders offer up any semi-sweet, but theologically unsound sentiments such as “I’m OK, You’re OK” or “God Helps Those Who Help Themselves.” He gets right to the point in the preface. This book is about love and loss and learning to live without. It’s about hard questions and hard to find answers. It’s about bitter pain and lasting peace.
One of many elements that I found meaningful during the reading—and has stuck with me since—is the fact that the author did not walk through this valley of the shadow alone. His son, Holden, was right there with him, experiencing it all with his dad. Craig Bowler and Ivan Wild proved the bonds of their friendship with their presence and prayers and their willingness to wrestle through the tough stuff with Saunders, while avoiding the type of unhelpful advice Old Testament Job received from his “friends.” Additionally, through the inclusion of Salvation Army Western Territory bulletins from those difficult days, the reader is reminded of the prayer partners we are blessed with in this compassionate movement.
I highly recommend this book, but with one caveat. You will only appreciate it if you are interested in true love, faithful friendship, heroic fatherhood, authentic discipleship, powerful prayers and an eyes-wide-open faith in the God of all comfort.
Find “Losing Leticia” at frontierpress.org.