Completed March 7, 2014

Until I Say Good-Bye: My Year of Living with Joy - Susan Spencer-Wendel, Bret Witter

Like The End of Your Life Book Club, this was a book about death and dying that reminded me just how cynical and judgmental I have become.


I like to say that I "lead with compassion".  In my work assisting a local legislator, i have been exposed to many social issues, including dying with dignity.  I believe that each and every one of us should have the opportunity to leave this world on our own terms, in our own unique way.


i admire the author for her strength of character, and for her commitment to live out her final days without dwelling on her condition or the loss of so much that makes us feel human.  However (here comes the cynical and judgmental part!) this book BOTHERED me, on a number of levels:


1.  For someone living on borrowed time, someone who writes so passionately about her love for her children...why spend so much of the time you have left far from home, away from them?


2.  Some of the most meaningful portions of the book involved the author's discovery of her late birth father's homeland and his wonderful, welcoming relatives.  Why not introduce your children to that aspect of your life while you can still see it through their eyes?  Why wait until you are gone to make the introductions?


3.  The "moments" depicted often feel manufactured and put on.  I'm sorry, but a woman should try on her first (and hopefully only!) wedding gown when she has a ring and a date, and is hopelessly in love with Mr. / Ms. Right.  Not before.


4.  Permanent make-up???  Really???  The "setting" of this book - Palm Beach - plays a vital role in how I approach this book, and in how I perceive the author.  We're not talking Compton, California here.  That makes a heartbreaking journey just a little more comfortable, and so much of the book had me rolling my eyes at the resources and connections that helped ease the way;


5.  The decision not to be honest with the kids about how the journey will end was a source of confusion and sadness for me.  Yes, children should be sheltered from adult tragedies, but these are not babies.  I think the youngest is ten or eleven.  One of them has Asperger's.  There are truths that can be shared, gently and kindly, without shattering their hearts or their souls.  And they probably know far more than we think they do.


But...well...who am i to judge?


This book is extremely well-written, and I discovered a new favourite narrator, Karen White.  But it is a true story, and I needed more from it than it delivered.  May lightning strike me down for saying so :)