On March 6, 2004, Thomas Pierce lost his wife of thirty seven years, JoAnn, and his daughter, Lisa, in a water taxi accident in the Baltimore Inner Harbor due to treacherous weather conditions. Twenty-five passengers were present as violent winds and waves capsized the boat and left Thomas Pierce clinging for his life. Strangely, Pierce did not panic while trapped underwater but accepted death’s fate for him. However, it was not his day to die.
Pierce’s personal account of the accident that claimed the lives of his wife and daughter, as well as, their impact on the world is told in a riveting story, The Last Rose: A True Celebration of Eternal Life.
The book remarkably, is not about loss, but a celebration of life. The book commences with the eulogies of JoAnn and Lisa Pierce, so the reader can experience the makeup and composure of the lost loved ones. From the opening comments, the reader has a sense of the special qualities of both JoAnn and Lisa, who shared common traits, helping others and thereby making a difference in the world. JoAnn, a pediatric nurse, spent countless hours working with children and wrote grant applications for clinics and programs that served many, especially young mothers and their infants. Lisa acted as a mentor for numerous young people and founded the Center for Student Leadership to help students grow in their leadership capacity.
Thomas Pierce’s realistic description of the tragic event makes the heart skip a beat; one can only image his grief. Through the author’s words, the reader feels transported to the actual scene of the water taxi accident. National media coverage is part of the accident’s aftermath, and the author is forced to rewrite history as a multitude of events associated with the accident are described.
Symbolism is given to the number thirteen. JoAnn and Thomas Pierce were married on August 13th, and people from thirteen different states attended JoAnn’s funeral. Chapter 5 is termed “The Thirteen Stories,” and thirteen chapters compose this book. Since the time of the death, many occurrences have involved the number thirteen, too many to chalk off as coincidence. The reader acquires a sense from the author that life after death exists and that those who go before us can communicate with us and look after us.
The reader will find The Last Rose inspirational. Henry Zecher, a reservist who helped rescue passengers of the water taxi accident, provides his own account while attempting to rescue Lisa Pierce from the water: “I looked into her eyes and time suddenly stood still. Something touched me down in the very depths of my being.” Despite the fact that Lisa died hours later in the hospital, Zecher found that the connection with Lisa’s eyes will remain part of him forever.
The book is a fast read with the ability to touch the heart of the reader. As a result of witnessing stories of how JoAnn and Lisa made the world a better place, Thomas Pierce has a catalyst to embrace life. Thomas Pierce’s message for the world is that a person can take a negative occurrence and find a positive message.
The Last Rose is a must-read. I found myself reaching for a tissue more than once as the author’s words pierced my heart with genuine affection and determination to communicate hope. His words inspire the reader to reflect, review his or her own state of consciousness, and push one to positive action. Clearly the reader will find a beautiful love story, of man and his wife and a father with his daughter.