On Oct. 31, 2023, Dr. Robert “Bob” Hubbard released his new book, “Scenes with My Son: Love and Grief in the Wake of Suicide.” Segmented into three parts, the book shares Dr. Hubbard’s memories of his son, August “Auggie” Hubbard. Dr. Hubbard recounts the euphoric joys and wrenching sorrows experienced throughout Auggie’s life. Honest and authentic, “Scenes with My Son” shares the reality of raising a child living with mental illness, high-functioning autism, suicidal ideation and ultimately experiencing the aftermath of their suicide.
Within his book, Dr. Hubbard writes his “scenes” in first person perspective and speaking in the present tense. “I hope it’s more visceral for the reader,” Dr. Hubbard said. He also uses a nonlinear timeline, jumping around events and memories from Auggie’s birth, childhood, adolescence and adulthood to orchestrate to the reader who Auggie was.
The eulogy to Auggie is written in three acts: “Beautiful Boy,” “The Family Monster” and “The Life After.” These acts all contain “scenes” depicting events of Auggie’s highs and lows, but also sharing moments of the Hubbard family wrestling with the aftermath of their child’s death. While getting engulfed in the pages, it’s difficult to ignore how deeply personal the events shared are. Scenes of Dr. Hubbard visiting his son in Sioux Falls’ mental hospital, Auggie’s academic struggles and familial dissonance put readers in a intimate knowing of Dr. Bob and his family. When asked about his openness in his scenes, Dr. Hubbard responded, “I wanted to keep Auggie’s presence alive in these stories. Auggie would have never tolerated a sugar-coating.”
On the last page of his prologue, Dr. Hubbard expresses his need to share Auggie’s life. “I never planned to write this book. I never thought I could, but it turns out I had to. For Auggie, and hopefully, for others” (p. xv). Students at Northwestern College are able to take a course with Dr. Hubbard, called Theatre Experience. One of the central terms to the course is a theory called “catharsis,” which is making the audience feel strong, repressed negative emotion in order to purge it and make them feel better. Putting it into practice, that was the intent of “Scenes with My Son.” Dr. Hubbard understands that although it is not a balm for everyone experiencing death of a loved one, he, as well as many others, are drawn to stories about grief. “It makes us feel not so by ourselves.” “Scenes with My Son” is also a means to build empathy for those who have never experienced the pain of grieving over one lost by suicide.
Many of the themes the book revolves around carries weight, giving a candid, realistic picture of the grieving process. Death, anger management, mental health, unconditional love and hospitalization are some of the many subjects discussed by Dr. Hubbard. However, one reoccurring theme that saturates all the others is faith. In every high, low, mundane moment in remembering Auggie, Dr. Hubbard sees God. In the highs, he sees God’s goodness and holiness in the moment. In the lows, he’s willing to admit his doubts about God’s sovereignty and goodness. Dr. Hubbard sees this as necessary to share: “I don’t think faith without doubt is very meaningful.” A moment in Act Three of “Scenes with My Son” opens a vulnerable thought where he is grappling with the hope of the Gospel in the midst of his inconsolable grief. When the heartache of missing Auggie comes and the promise of eternal life and reunion with the “cloud of witnesses” seems bleak, Dr. Hubbard asks God, like the father with his sick son in Mark 9:22-24, to “’help [him] overcome [his] unbelief,” (p. 154).
There will be an excerpt book reading on Nov. 14 at 7:00 p.m. in the Theora England Willcox Proscenium Theatre, including a discussion with Dr. Hubbard. The event will be followed by a reception with refreshments in the lobby where attendees can purchase “Scenes with My Son” and get their copy signed by Dr. Hubbard. Students are highly encouraged to attend the book reading. “In a way it’s their story,” Dr. Hubbard said. “It happened here on campus. I’m privileged to share because it’s a NW’s story.”