Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Book Review - Until I Say Goodbye

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Wow! What a book; what a story; what a great attitude.

Susan Spencer-Wendel was diagnosed with ALS which is an incurable disease and she chose to live her last year with joy. She didn't complain, but chose to accept her situation and viewed things from an optimistic vantage point. This allowed her to write one of the more uplifting books I've read in a long time.

ALS, a terminal illness also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, has no cure. The body fails but the mind remains strong as muscles slowly atrophy. There is no cure because no one has figured out how to bring dead muscles back to life.

In June 2011, Susan Spencer-Wendel learned she had ALS. She was forty-four years old with a devoted husband and three young children. She had one year of health remaining. This book chronicles her joyous adventure until her passing. Indeed it was joyous as she had many opportunities to be sad and go crazy. As a writer, it was daunting when her left hand withered away and for a year she was in denial. With her one good thumb she typed the book on her iPhone using the Notes feature; that was the only thing she could do. She didn't want people feeling sorry for her, though they did and she made a point of not wallowing in self pity. She had strong friendships and relationships in her life that nurtured her through the disease. Her goal was to create memories with the memorable people in her life. Those people were her husband, children, sister, parents and best friend. Many of the experiences were trips with each trip holding significance for her and the person.

She also talked about some of the day to day realities of losing all of your bodily functions - falling often, slurred words, and having your husband wipe you when do a stinking pickle. She has a beautiful way with words.

Her life was not picture perfect and many of the experiences did not go as she envisioned. She wanted to return the family Bible to her new found family in Cyprus. After many twists and turns and connecting with family members, once she finally got to Cyprus the Bible simply belonged to her father's ex-wife. It had no history. But she was alive and could laugh about it.

"I am the master of my mind; I have a choice about how I feel," this is what allowed her to press on and let go of the indignities that go with a terminal illness. She reinvented, accepted, and moved on.

We all deal with difficult situations, things and people. If we look around, there is a beauty everywhere. If we look up, we know that God has allowed us to live and if we let Him, he will show us how to navigate the trials. As a Christian I am often amazed at how much we can learn from people who aren't Christ-followers. According to her, she wasn't a believer yet she chose to live out a Biblical truth....count it all joy (James 1:2-3).




1 comment:

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