NOTE: This memoir was provided by Spark Point Studio for review purposes. I am always grateful to receive copies for review and thank everyone involved with this book for sharing it with me. All opinions are my own. I have not been paid to review or write this post.
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Today’s post is a review of an authentic memoir about dying, Walking Him Home by Joanne Tubbs Kelly. Kelly memoir is in many ways a love letter to her late husband Alan. The story opens with Alan at home with the people he loves. He has decided for medically assisted dying after his terminal diagnosis with Multiple System Atrophy (MSA). This post deals with a lot of heavy topics, so I totally understand if you need to take time to read this, or skip the post all-together.
Buy your copy of Walking Him Home from The Book Depository here.
Kelly lives in the U.S. where laws around medically assisted dying differ from Australia. The state that she lived in, offered such services to her family, and her husband Alan was able to make that choice while having the support of his wife and medical doctors. The choice to end one’s life in the case of a terminal illness is an often fraught discussion. Many countries around the world still don’t offer anything like that, and it can make it extremely difficult for people who wish to chose this path.
I lived in Switzerland for six years, and there is something called death tourism there where people travel to Switzerland to end their life due to difficult medical diagnoses. It is important to remember that assisted dying is not the same as dying by suicide. Rather, a person has decided to end their life, while they are still able to make sound-of-mind decisions about their own health and well-being. It is essentially giving people the right to make a decision about quality of life over quantity of days lived. To make such decisions and to have such open conversations around death requires compassion, vulnerability, love, understanding, and bravery.
While this memoir deals with a lot of heavy topics, it is not all sadness and sorrow. Indeed, Kelly speaks about her husband with a warmth and love that shows throughout her writing. Alan was funny, kind, and caring. He and Kelly met after they had both been in failed prior relationships, and they were able to make a beautiful life with each other. Alan worked as a handyman, and Kelly paints such a kind picture of Alan at work around the neighbourhood.
Buy your copy of Walking Him Home from Amazon here.
Kelly writes that she noticed her husband’s sleep started to change. He would have vivid dreams and talk in his sleep. He began acting out in his sleep – almost like sleep walking but with much more activity and vigor. At first, Joanne thinks it might be dementia. There are many conditions that affect the brain and many of these conditions have overlapping symptoms. After many years of back and forth with doctors, Alan is able to receive an accurate diagnosis of MSA. With this sad news, the very immediate ticking of the clock begins for Alan and how much time he has left.
Kelly speaks a lot about Alan’s views on medically assisted dying – and he says, (paraphrased) we don’t do this to sick animals, so why do we let humans suffer? To have control over your death is a rare thing – most people do not get a say in when or how they die. For those who have no chance at recovery, the option to end your life before suffering and pain gets too much, is one way to empower people with terminal illnesses.
While Kelly memoir is about Alan, it is also about her own journey with finding love in her partnership with Alan, but also being able to love herself. It is a story of discovery through love and loss, and Joanne writes candidly about what her life will be like once Alan is gone. In many ways, it honours Alan and also caries his memory forward.
This memoir is definitely a difficult read, and I did need to give myself some breaks whilst reading it as the subject-matter was a bit too close to home at times. Overall, this memoir is great for anyone who would like to read about what an example of assisted dying could look like. It is also great for people who are dealing with loss and want to have a story they can relate to.
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Please let me know in the comments below if you decide to read this authentic memoir about dying Walking Him Home by Joanne Tubbs Kelly. As always, share the reading love.
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