It is hard to accept the loss of a loved one after they have been a presence in your life for so many years, especially if they were young and you had expected them to be in your life for many more years to come.

I have heard that people who have lost an arm or a leg say they can still feel the missing limb as though it were still attached. I had the same feeling about the loss of my child. For several months after his death, something would happen that would have interested Jason and I would think about telling him until I remembered that he was gone.

As time passed, his absence became part of my reality, and I stopped making this mistake. Perhaps it was the visits to the cemetery that reinforced the image of his grave, and therefore his death, so firmly in my consciousness.

Yet I continued to think of Jason, sometimes by choice, sometimes surprised while engaged in activities that would remind me of him. Jason’s ambition was to make movies.

After his death, I often went to movies, and at the end of certain films might speculate: “Jason would have liked this movie,” or “If he had lived, this is the sort of movie Jason would have made.” Such thoughts prolonged our relationship, providing him a space in my life. It was the only kind of immortality I could give him – that of a father’s love and remembrance.

Kent Koppelman

Wrestling with the Angel

Baywood Publishing, Inc.


Kent Koppelman

Kent Koppelman earned a Bachelor’s degree in English Education and a Master’s degree in English from the University of Nebraska and he taught high school English and social studies in Nebraska, Connecticut, and Iowa before enrolling in a PhD at Iowa State University in Ames. After graduation, he accepted a position at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse where for 28 years he taught undergraduate and graduate courses in foundations, diversity issues, ethics, and multicultural education. Throughout his career Dr. Koppelman has published essays in various journals and given presentations at state, national, and international conferences. Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction selected him as the “Teacher Educator of the Year” in 1988, but the following year was marred by a family tragedy when his son, Jason, was killed in a car accident. His experience with loss and grief was the subject of his first book entitled The Fall of a Sparrow: Of Death and Dreams and Healing (1994, Baywood Publishing Company). Dr. Koppelman’s second book, Values in the Key of Life: Making Harmony in the Human Community (2001, Baywood Publishing Company), consisted of essays about the need to choose between conflicting values and the implications of those choices in everyday life. His third book was a textbook for college courses on diversity entitled Understanding Human Differences: Multicultural Education for a Diverse America (2005, 2008, 2011) published by Allyn and Bacon. Dr. Koppelman retired in May of 2007, and the following fall, the College of Human Sciences at Iowa State University presented him with the Virgil S. Lagomarcino Laureate Award to honor his “distinguished achievement in the field of education.” Since his retirement, Dr. Koppelman has compiled and edited an anthology on diversity issues for Allyn & Bacon entitled Perspectives on Human Differences: Selected Readings on Diversity in America (2010), and he finished another book on his grief experiences including essays, fiction, and poetry entitled Wrestling with the Angel: Literary Writings and Reflections on Death, Dying and Bereavement (2010, Baywood Publishing Company). Dr. Koppelman is currently working on a book for Teachers College Press tilted The Great Diversity Debate: Embracing Pluralism in School and Society that will be published in the spring of 2011. Dr. Koppelman and his wife Jan have been married for over 40 years, and their daughter, Tess, is a broadcast journalist in Kansas City.

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