The comfort of an enlightening book

Over the last couple of years, I’ve found deep comfort in some wonderful books. Inevitably followed on the strength of a heartfelt review in The Guardian, or passed on by family, these books have been a joy. In particular today, I want to mention Rachel Clarke’s Dear Life.

A palliative care doctor who relates her own experience of the slow loss of her father, Rachel Clarke’s book is filled with empathy for humanity. She describes, so movingly, how life, living, is a shared experience, and how it is still life even while a loved one is dying.

A community friend and colleague, David Crellin, died just over a week ago, and we attended his funeral yesterday, along with an overcrowded and over-spilling congregation. Most remarkable were the tributes to his physical, caring life, and the recognition that the past two years of coping with advancing Motor Neurone Disease were a crucial part of his life. Rachel Clarke’s book could have been written for his grieving family, but they also seemed to have experienced similar empathy, as David lived his last days.

I shared Dear Life with my brothers when our father was dying. Even though they live far across the sea, they found it very helpful. The feelings and understandings she offers are universal, and I would unhesitatingly recommend her words to anyone living, or caring for someone who is living in their last months, weeks, days.

Another timely book, I hope, dealing with a different time, a time we may all experience, has received similar accolades: The Red of My Blood by Clover Stroud. On the strength of Gaby Hinsliff’s comments, I purchased a copy, and I hope to read it over the next week. Clover Stroud deals with the aftermath of the unexpected, sudden death of a loved one.

When I’ve finished, I imagine with tears in my eyes but with a shared sense of humanity and of understanding, of some realistic hope for the life that goes on for those who remain, I also hope this book may be something, however small, that I can share with our friends who are experiencing this desperate time.

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