Friday, September 7, 2018

Book Review: Memories in Dragonflies

I have dealt a lot with death in the last two years. From dying myself and being revived, to knowing my grandma was dying and dealing with her passing, my grandpa being ill, and knowing several people who have all taken their turn at passing. I know life is full of life but it's also full with death and I don't think anyone is ever really ready to lose someone. I don't know if you can really prepare for that and understand what it means until you're right there. So that's why I picked this one to review.

Memories in Dragonflies - Lannette Cornell Bloom

Lannette Cornell Bloom, a typical, overworked nurse, wife, and mom of two, was forty-three when her mother was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis. She quit her job and dove headlong into the familiar role of caretaking. This choice—to slow down and be present for the hardest year of her life—resulted in an awakening. In unexpected moments, as childhood memories flooded into the present, Lannette glimpsed bits of magic that existed just beyond the pain. Without knowing it, she was experiencing a mindful dying process with her mother—and it was a journey that would change the way she lived the rest of her life.

A touching and soulful memoir that gracefully uncovers the beauty that is often lost within the dying process, Memories in Dragonflies is a beautiful portrait of what it means to be human and a gentle reminder to enjoy every moment, because even the simplest ones bring lasting joy.

Normally at the end of a review I'll tell you who will like this book the most but I'm actually going to start with it. Everyone. Literally everyone should read this because we all have parents and grandparents, we will all face someone close to us dying. We might even be the caregiver, we might not know how to navigate the feelings of wanting to grieve what you're going to lose but trying to be strong for that person so you don't make them feel worse about the situation. But everyone can benefit from this book.

The book is relatively short, only 112 pages, I finished this in about two hours. The story is written by Lannette who becomes the caregiver for her mother who was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis. I know we talk vaguely about death and say, "Oh they died of this" but nobody really knows what the process is going to be like. Or maybe we don't want to know. But Lannette frankly states that her mother's lungs will essentially harden and calcify and basically suffocate her. And when you hear it like that you think- who WOULDN'T be terrified of this process?? Her mother is determined to challenge this head on until she can't and the family respects her decision and her care turns from fighting to comfort care to hospice.

I don't know these people but I teared up reading this. She talks about how she struggled with wanting to talk about the truth they were all staring down but how the rest of her family didn't want to talk about it. How she struggled with being the caregiver and the feeling that nobody recognized what she was doing, what she was giving up, what she was going through because being a caregiver is really difficult. I know some people just cannot do it, and I can't fault them. A person knows what their limits are. But for the ones who are in the trenches doing it, they need some respite and maybe someone to check on them.

The other thing I really liked about the book was it touched on Lannette listening to her mom's stories and watching her end relationships with people. Asking them to carry on in her absence, and that was sad. But Lannette also struggled with trying to learn everything she could about her mom. What didn't she know about her? What did she want to ask her in this limited time? I mean, if you knew your parent was going to die soon, what would you want to know? What pieces of history or life lessons would you want to squeeze out of them? I don't think we can ever know too much about someone and I wonder if someone can pass and have had all of that information passed onto someone, or do they pass with some secrets never to be discovered? I don't know. But it makes you wonder. 

The greatest part of the story is this daughter's unending, never wavering love for her mom. It's a realization that as we decline it's like we revert back to childhood only this time our children are caring for us. Lannette struggles with helping her mother while maintaining her mother's dignity and man... what a fine line to walk.

The whole book reminds me of the Death Cab for Cutie song "What Sarah Said". It's a really wonderful song and it's one of my favorites, but there is a line in there that says, "Love is...watching someone die. Whose going to watch you die?" and man... isn't that the truth? The most loving thing we can do is guide someone at the end and bring comfort. To assure them it's OK, to not be scared, to know that it's OK for them to go.

I really loved this book and I just hope that when it's my turn I can do as much for my parents as Lannette did. And if you're reading this Lannette, your mom appreciated every minute of every day that you dedicated to her. You couldn't have shown her how much you love her in a better way. I couldn't think of a better way to have gone than what you were able to give her and I hope you know that. We all could only hope for that for ourselves.



Kristin said...

Wow. This really resonates because my father had pulmonary fibrosis for the year+ before he passed on. Thanks for the rec.

Beth (Coffee Until Cocktails) said...

This sounds absolutely beautiful. And you are absolutely right, that we are all going to be faced with death someday - of our loved ones and of ourselves, so it does sound like an important read for anyone. Thanks for sharing it.

Kim {Hope Whispers} said...

OK. Putting this on the top of my list to read. I recently had a conversation with my husband about caregiving. While my illness is different, I am told that it will be bad as it progresses and more than anything, I don't want to be a burden on my family. Thanks for sharing this with us. Can't wait to read it!

Neely said...

I am here for this book!

Shooting Stars Mag said...

Oh gosh, just your review makes me want to cry. It sounds like such a beautiful testament of a daughter's love for her mom. And her mom's illness? What it would eventually do? I can't imagine knowing that's going to happen and facing it head on.


Midnight Cowgirl said...

This sounds so interesting. Grief is hard to discuss but it can't be ignored.