When 73 year old Nancy Sachsse was told that she had terminal cancer and that her care was going to be mostly palliative, she didn't rage against the fates but with her grieving family at her side, set out to be present in everything and every way she could for the time she had left. Daughter Linda writes of her last year with the mother both to cope with her loss but also to provide others with a different way to look at such a diagnosis. Determined to help her mother spend the time living rather than dying, Campanella tells of the decisions they made both in actual practice and emotionally. Her mother was given a calendar to help her continue to plan outings that would give her the sense of having a future. Impromptu happy hours on the deck became standard and tangible small ways to celebrate each day. They didn't talk about death and dying but about life and living. And the whole family made it a practice to share with each other and specifically with Nan the love that they all had/have for each other.
Told through her recollections of the time and reinforced by the inclusion of e-mails from Campanella and her mother, this is a sad but positive offering. It is very emotional and very, very personal. Everyone who walks the path of losing a loved one, especially when that loved one declines slowly, walks it differently and so this can't be prescriptive but it might help others view the coming end differently.
The book jumps forward and backwards in time around the themes of Loving, Living, Believing, and Letting Go. There is, of course, no doubt at the outset of the memoir that Campanella loses her mother. But the chapters jump from early on after the diagnosis to the time immediately following her death and back again which can be a bit disconcerting to the reader. The inclusion of her mother's own e-mails to Campanella and to her grandsons helps to bring Sachsse's distinct voice into the narrative. The other e-mails detail Campanella's research and her hope and her ultimate decisions about what would be best for her mother. There are hints of disagreements between family members but those have mostly been suppressed and so the memoir remains ultimately uplifting. While there is some sense of the nitty gritty day to day living here, much of the reality of a person dying of cancer has been glossed over. It is impressive that they all found a way to be so positive and focused on living in the midst of this long leaving and the memoir is much more about the emotional toll of such a diagnosis and death and the ways in which the family strove to take the weight of that from Nan's shoulders than it is about the physical. If all that's left of Nancy Sachsse is love, her daughter has certainly channeled that love into her account of losing her beloved mother.
For more information about Linda Campanella and the book visit her website or like her page on Facebook. Follow the rest of the blog tour or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.
Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book to review.