As I recently mentioned the preface to the novel I Hate The Internet (though, yes, Kobek does call it a “note”), here’s another good one (and tellingly on the same subject) from Doug Stanhope’s book Digging Up Mother: A Love Story.
Towards the end of Stanhope’s book, when he writes about his mother’s last few hours, it reverberated with a book I read last summer: Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal. Both books deal with the death of a parent: a mother in Stanhope’s case; a father in Gawande’s. They deal with it very differently mind you.
And though I say Stanhope’s account is excellent, timely, and necessary, so as to push against any chance of a narrative forming about how you should deal with, or react to, death and dying; this doesn’t mean I think it’s any better, or preferable to, Gawande’s account, or the way Gawande deals with his father’s death – no one knows how, when the time comes, just how they will react: as Stanhope acknowledges, ‘maybe we’re just different.’
But what comes across in both books – the best way I can describe it – is the trust that is established, in the end, between the person living and the one dying. That’s not a trust the books suggest, by any means, is easily won or everyone will achieve. But
Stanhope and Gawande at least give us a chance to see it exists, and that it might be achievable to the extent our different situations and circumstances allow.
Reading: Either Side of Winter, Benjamin Markovits