The Long Goodbye: A Memoir ~Meghan O’Rourke
This is a loving story of a “normal” family who experienced the loss of the Mother and Wife to colon cancer. It is a story about their growing and parented years, it is the story about the years of sickness and the family’s responses and actions, and is introspective of that which a daughter understands about her own development, growth and the mother-daughter experience.
This book is a study in grief and it is well researched, literary, and supremely well written.
There were moments where I thought I was reading a 300 page obituary for a talented and energetic teacher. I often thought, wow I wish I had read this before my own Mother was dying; I am happy that other people can now benefit from the research, poetry, insights, and lessons shared in this book. It is a celebration of living a good life, having a good death, and how mourning and grief play out amidst the living and the survivors.
“One of the grubby truths about a loss is that you don’t just mourn the dead person, you mourn the person you got to be when the lost one was alive.”
I found myself feeling jealous several times during the reading of this book. O’Rourke writes about familial love as a resource and strength in the face of immeasurable loss and how each family member took part in the care of the patient and the nurturing of each other. The extended family was fairly close by and offered their support also. I had to wonder how my experience would have been changed with even a spoonful of that “yogurt” of the author’s experience. It was a very personal read.
“It is, of course, difficult to study ‘grief’ because a salient feature of grief is that it’s not monolithic or singular; it’s personal and variable. That said, there seem to be certain universal aspects. And one is the ameliorating influence of watching your loved one accept his or her death. (Another is that the dominant feeling after a loss isn’t anger or denial but yearning, exactly the feeling I’d had.)”
O’Rourke has moved well beyond the studies and conclusions of Kubler-Ross’s stages and even refers to these as states, because there is not an orderly progression – rather it is” an ongoing, messy process”
“But even ‘normal grief’, Prigerson said, is hardly gentle. Its symptoms include insomnia or other sleep disorders, difficulty breathing, auditory or visual hallucinations, appetite problems, and dryness of mouth. I had had all of these symptoms, including one banal hallucination at dinner with a friend, when I imagined I saw a waitress bring him ice cream. In addition to the symptoms Prigerson named, I had one more: difficulty spelling. Like my mother, I had always been a good speller. … My problem was not unusual; certain forms of grief can take a toll on your cognitive functions.”
Grief is such an important part of living and living a “good” life that there are many studies being done and this book offers up so much of the new thinking and “facts” presented by the current research. It has been a question on the mind of most human’s experience.
Missing from this book, were all the details of the “paperwork” involved with the process of illness and dying. There is little mention of the insurance, and co-pays, fees and lawyers. The author does talk about how they had to tell her Mother’s treatment history to each new Doctor and Administrator that they encountered and how exhausting that part of the experience can become. She also mentions how sometimes her notes arrived ahead of charts and labs and these were the basis of keeping her mother cared for and proceeding with less pain and trauma. I wanted to add, how lucky she was to have so many helpers and friends who did a conscientious job of helping her keep track, because it seemed like when I could finally get away for a shower or rest, some physician arrived and changed the routine and medications – and no one told me.
This book is an invaluable resource of how to care for one’s self through the tough sieges and loss, and it is recounted by a good teller.
Richard Ford said: “The LONG GOODBYE is emotionally acute, strikingly empathetic, through and unstintingly intellectually, and of course elegantly wrought. But it’s above all a useful book, for life—the good bits and the sad ones, too.”
Everyone who makes a comment on this review will be entered into a give away for a copy of this book to be mailed to you by the publisher. Only available for USA and Canada. The random drawing will be held April 22, 2011.
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Let’s talk about this idea of grief in the comments section. I think you would truly like this book.
I know I experienced many of these feelings and I think this was why I torn the ligament off my ribs and had to just sit still for several years to heal it – powerful impact physically and emotionally. Looking forward to what you are going to share.