The Suitcase and the Jar
Travels with a Daughter's Ashes
When a brain tumour takes the life of Becky Livingston’s twenty-three-year-old daughter Rachel, her life makes an unconventional turn. Rachel, an avid traveller, had one wish: to keep exploring the world.
So, for twenty-six months Livingston travels — untethered and alone — to Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Australia, India, England, Ireland and North America, coast to coast. In her suitcase: Rachel’s ashes, heavy but compact. As she gradually merges her daughter’s remains with the elements, Livingston learns how to forge a new sense of belonging in an unfamiliar world.
Is it reckless for a fifty-three-year-old mother to quit her job and set off overseas with no agenda or timeline? Is such a journey squandering a life, or saving it?
The Suitcase and the Jar is a profoundly moving story of a mother’s courage and resilience. It explores an intensely personal yet universal experience: how one finds the strength to reconfigure a new life by necessity. A poignant memoir, The Suitcase and the Jar is the story of a mother’s transformative journey of surrender and belonging.
Honest, heartbreaking and brave. Becky Livingston’s The Suitcase and the Jar is both poignant and profound. I would recommend this for anyone who has lost someone or knows someone who has. It’s a guide to grief—to take the time you need and be brave enough to stray from convention. It made me cry, it made me think, it made my heart ache.
—Shannon Leone Fowler, author of Traveling With Ghosts
Becky Livingston’s travelogue of grief is tender, searing and seeded with hard-won bits of wisdom. Joy is possible in the world of grief, she tells us. Claim it. This is a book not only about surviving profound loss, but about relearning how to embrace life fully.
—Nancy Horan, author of Under the Wide and Starry Sky
What an honour to be invited to travel alongside Becky Livingston as she deftly navigates the daunting terrain of grief and loss. Carrying our stories can feel like painfully heavy baggage. Becky’s journey is literally one of lessening her load, while the uncharted territory she explores begins to heal her heart. A writing style that is rich, warm and honest left me not wanting her travels to end. The Suitcase & the Jar helps us understand that when we fully experience the loss of someone we love deeply, we discover a part of ourselves.
—Katy Hutchinson, author of Walking After Midnight.
The Suitcase & The Jar is not simply another book about loss. It is an invitation; an illumination into the complexities of love. A fine intelligence moves through these pages. There is no false sentiment here. Livingston articulates grief with a writer’s keen eye. She shows us not a way through loss, but a way in. What more can one ask of a book about grief?
—Eve Joseph, author of In the Slender Margin.