Monday, October 25, 2010

Gail Caldwell's Book

Last weekend I read three books. Today I want to talk about the book, Let's Take the Long Way Home by Gail Caldwell. It is the story of Gail's friendship with Caroline Knapp, author of Drinking: A Love Story. The book follows Caroline's battle with cancer and Caldwell's care for her and subsequent sense of loss at her death.

At the beginning of the book, I felt that Caldwell was being self-absorbed, but as I read on and looked closer at their burgeoning relationship, I fell in love with the book. Toward the end I was underlining passages and turning down pages.

This in particular sticks in my mind:

"Suffering is what changes the endgame, changes death's mantle from black to white. It is a badly lit corridor outside of time, a place of crushing weariness, the only thing large enough to bully you into holding the door for death."

I've read this at least twenty times, and its profundity is never diminished. Because I, sitting in the hospital with my dad one of the nights after his first brain surgery, wished for his death. I couldn't bear to see his pain and defeat and depression. And I watched the heart monitor rise and fall and thought, "Please flat-line. Please let's end this right now."

I haven't felt exactly guilty for thinking this, but I did feel uneasy about wishing for my dad's death. Suffering changed the endgame, though, just like Caldwell says, and I welcomed death into the room.

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