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‘Awful Beautiful Life’

(Michelle McCarron/Getty Images)

Becky Powell had a fine how-do-you-do. Two of them, actually. First, her husband, Mark, killed himself. That sort of thing is more common than one might suppose. Many families are affected by suicide, but the topic tends to be sotto voce. “Oh, he had a hunting accident.” And the second how-do-you-do? Mark had a debt of $21.5 million. The money had been borrowed from 90 different people, many of them friends of Mark and Becky’s. Becky had had no idea.

She did not have to pay the money back. She was not responsible for it legally, and she was not responsible for it in any other way either. At least, many of us would think that. But Becky thought otherwise. She insisted on paying the money back.

Many of the friends said, “Oh, don’t bother. You and the children have been through so much already.” (Becky and Mark had — have — three children.) (It’s hard to know what tense to use in this kind of story.) But Becky wanted to pay the money back for her own dignity and conscience. She wanted to be able to look people in the eye. Also, she wanted to set an example for the children: We pay our own way, we stand on our own two feet (or eight, in this case).

Anyway, Becky Powell has had quite an experience — that is my Midwestern euphemism in play — and she has written a book about it, Awful Beautiful Life: When God Shows Up in the Midst of Tragedy. I have done a Q&A podcast with her, here.

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