About Mindfulness and Dying: My Review of Bless the Birds by Susan J. Tweit #FantasticFridayReads #Memoir #Inspiration

What Amazon Says

 

Writer Susan Tweit and her economist-turned-sculptor husband Richard Cabe had just settled into their version of a “good life” when Richard saw thousands of birds one day—harbingers of the brain cancer that would kill him two years later. This compelling and intimate memoir chronicles their journey into the end of his life, framed by their final trip together, a 4,000-mile-long delayed honeymoon road trip.

As Susan and Richard navigate the unfamiliar territory of brain cancer treatment and learn a whole new vocabulary—craniotomies, adjuvant chemotherapy, and brain geography—they also develop new routines for a mindful existence, relying on each other and their connection to nature, including the real birds Richard enjoys watching. Their determination to walk hand in hand, with open hearts, results in profound and difficult adjustments in their roles.

Bless the Birds is not a sad story. It is both prayer and love song, a guide to how to thrive in a world where all we hold dear seems to be eroding, whether simple civility and respect, our health and safety, or the Earth itself. It’s an exploration of living with love in a time of dying—whether personal or global—with humor, unflinching courage, and grace. And it is an invitation to choose to live in light of what we love, rather than what we fear.

Buy from Amazon.

My Thoughts

 

Last year, I almost had an opportunity to attend, virtually, a workshop by Susan Tweit held during a Wyoming Writers conference. Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties, the Zoom workshops were canceled. They were recorded, and I think they’re still available on the organization’s website. So, I may check them out at some point. Meanwhile, I was intrigued after reading about this memoir on Facebook.

Being a widow and having been a caregiver to my late husband for six years, I was drawn to Susan Tweit’s story. I was right there with her and Richard as they traveled through the unfamiliar world of cancer. I like how she starts each chapter by recounting a portion of their road trip and then flashing back to their life together and their battle with his illness. The epilogue and poems interspersed throughout the book add a nice touch. I admire Susan’s courage in caring for Richard and being with him at the end. This book should give you an idea of what it would be like for someone to die of a terminal illness.

Abbie wears a blue and white V-neck top with different shades of blue from sky to navy that swirl together with the white. She has short, brown hair and rosy cheeks and smiles at the camera against a black background.

Photo Courtesy of Tess Anderson Photography

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Two Pentacles Publishing.

If you haven’t already done so, please subscribe to my email list to receive my twice-yearly newsletter and other announcements. This is a one-way announcements list, meaning the only messages you’ll receive will come from me. So, you can rest assured that this list is low-traffic. Send a blank email to:  newsfrommycorner+subscribe@groups.io  You’ll receive a confirmation email. Reply to that with another blank message, and you should be good to go.

 

New! Why Grandma Doesn’t Know Me

Copyright 2021 by Abbie Johnson Taylor.

Independently published with the help of DLD Books.

The cover of the book features an older woman sitting in a wicker chair facing a window. The world beyond the window is bright, and several plants are visible on the terrace. Behind the woman’s chair is another plant, with a tall stalk and wide rounded leaves. The woman has short, white hair, glasses, a red sweater, and tan pants. The border of the picture is a taupe color and reads "Why Grandma Doesn't Know Me" above the photo and "Abbie Johnson Taylor" below it.

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Two Pentacles Publishing.

Sixteen-year-old Natalie’s grandmother, suffering from dementia and confined to a wheelchair, lives in a nursing home and rarely recognizes Natalie. But one Halloween night, she tells her a shocking secret that only she and Natalie’s mother know. Natalie is the product of a one-night stand between her mother, who is a college English teacher, and another professor.

After some research, Natalie learns that people with dementia often have vivid memories of past events. Still not wanting to believe what her grandmother has told her, she finds her biological father online. The resemblance between them is undeniable. Not knowing what else to do, she shows his photo and website to her parents.

Natalie realizes she has some growing up to do. Scared and confused, she reaches out to her biological father, and they start corresponding.

Her younger sister, Sarah, senses their parents’ marital difficulties. At Thanksgiving, when she has an opportunity to see Santa Claus, she asks him to bring them together again. Can the jolly old elf grant her request?

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At Eventide #TuesdayTidbit #Poetry #Inspiration

Abbie wears a blue and white V-neck top with different shades of blue from sky to navy that swirl together with the white. She has short, brown hair and rosy cheeks and smiles at the camera against a black background.

Photo Courtesy of Tess Anderson Photography

Photo Resize and Description by

Two Pentacles Publishing.

 

I just got off the phone with a friend who’s in Minnesota with her dying brother, now in hospice care. He has been drifting in and out of consciousness as a result of pain medications, and he’s stopped eating and drinking. So, it shouldn’t be too much longer.

This reminded me of my late husband’s last few days, when he, too, stopped eating and drinking and wasn’t aware of what was going around him. So, I’m sharing with you a poem from My Ideal Partner, which expresses my feelings during this time. You can click the link below the poem to hear me read it.

 

AT EVENTIDE

By Abbie Johnson Taylor

Copyright 2016.

Here you lie

after suffering two strokes,

unable to walk.

For six years, I cared for you.

We were happy.

 

Now after giving up on life,

you’re breathing your last.

Here I sit, holding your hand,

talking to you,

singing your favorite songs,

wishing you’d respond,

tell me you love me,

squeeze my hand.

I shouldn’t be here.

 

At Eventide

 

If you haven’t already done so, please subscribe to my email list to receive my twice-yearly newsletter and other announcements. This is a one-way announcements list, meaning the only messages you’ll receive will come from me. So, you can rest assured that this list is low-traffic. Send a blank email to:  newsfrommycorner+subscribe@groups.io  You’ll receive a confirmation email. Reply to that with another blank message, and you should be good to go.

***

New! Why Grandma Doesn’t Know Me

Copyright 2021 by Abbie Johnson Taylor.

Independently published with the help of DLD Books.

The cover of the book features an older woman sitting in a wicker chair facing a window. The world beyond the window is bright, and several plants are visible on the terrace. Behind the woman’s chair is another plant, with a tall stalk and wide rounded leaves. The woman has short, white hair, glasses, a red sweater, and tan pants. The border of the picture is a taupe color and reads "Why Grandma Doesn't Know Me" above the photo and "Abbie Johnson Taylor" below it.

Sixteen-year-old Natalie’s grandmother, suffering from dementia and confined to a wheelchair, lives in a nursing home and rarely recognizes Natalie. But one Halloween night, she tells her a shocking secret that only she and Natalie’s mother know. Natalie is the product of a one-night stand between her mother, who is a college English teacher, and another professor.

After some research, Natalie learns that people with dementia often have vivid memories of past events. Still not wanting to believe what her grandmother has told her, she finds her biological father online. The resemblance between them is undeniable. Not knowing what else to do, she shows his photo and website to her parents.

Natalie realizes she has some growing up to do. Scared and confused, she reaches out to her biological father, and they start corresponding.

Her younger sister, Sarah, senses their parents’ marital difficulties. At Thanksgiving, when she has an opportunity to see Santa Claus, she asks him to bring them together again. Can the jolly old elf grant her request?

***

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Oh When I Die #TuesdayTidbit #Jottings #Inspiration

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.

 

 

 

My late husband Bill loved organizing things. He planned every little detail of our wedding, including who would bring us a plate of food at the reception. Naturally, a few years after he suffered two strokes that paralyzed his left side, he decided to plan and pay for his own funeral.

We visited one funeral home and weren’t impressed. A representative from another came to our home. Right away, we liked him and what he had to offer.

At the time, we were living in Sheridan, Wyoming, where I still reside today. Bill wanted to be buried with his family in Fowler, Colorado, about 500 miles away. We were assured that when the time came, that could be arranged.

It felt strange, planning a funeral for someone who was still alive. But when Bill’s time came, I was glad everything was arranged in advance. He wanted only a graveside service, which turned out to be lovely, despite the November wind. Many people attended, including my dad, two uncles, an aunt, and cousins. Several of Bill’s friends shared their memories of him. As he requested, I played my guitar and sang “Stormy Weather.” You can read more about this in My Ideal Partner.

I just turned sixty last summer. I should start thinking about planning my own funeral. It would make things easier for my family like Bill’s making and paying for his arrangements did for me. But I have so many questions.

My brother once told me that when people die, they simply cease to exist. So, what is it like not to exist? We talk about pets crossing a rainbow bridge when they die. Why can’t humans do the same thing like in this song by Abba?

Then again, what if, when you die, you’re still aware of what’s going on around you, even though you can’t move or talk. If this is the case, cremation is definitely out for me, since I’ve always been fearful, yet respectful of fire. Lying underground would be boring but not painful. Yet, burial is more expensive than cremation.

I know one thing for sure. I want to sing for my own funeral. When I’m ready to make arrangements, I’ll provide the funeral home with one or two recordings of me singing songs with piano or guitar accompaniment that can be played during the service. I know this sounds vain, but when I die, I want a celebration of life, where people can hear me sing one last time and share memories.

How about you? Have you thought about what you want done when your time comes? Thanks to Morpethroad for inspiring this post.

New! Why Grandma Doesn’t Know Me

Copyright 2021 by Abbie Johnson Taylor.

Independently published with the help of DLD Books.

Front cover image contains: elderly woman in red sweater sitting next to a window.

Sixteen-year-old Natalie’s grandmother, suffering from dementia and confined to a wheelchair, lives in a nursing home and rarely recognizes Natalie. But one Halloween night, she tells her a shocking secret that only she and Natalie’s mother know. Natalie is the product of a one-night stand between her mother, who is a college English teacher, and another professor.

After some research, Natalie learns that people with dementia often have vivid memories of past events. Still not wanting to believe what her grandmother has told her, she finds her biological father online. The resemblance between them is undeniable. Not knowing what else to do, she shows his photo and website to her parents.

Natalie realizes she has some growing up to do. Scared and confused, she reaches out to her biological father, and they start corresponding.

Her younger sister, Sarah, senses their parents’ marital difficulties. At Thanksgiving, when she has an opportunity to see Santa Claus, she asks him to bring them together again. Can the jolly old elf grant her request?

***

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Song Lyric Sunday: Seasons in the Sun

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.The theme from newepicauthor this week is “seasons.” This was one of the first songs I listened to on a remote-controlled jukebox I got for Christmas in 1973 when I was twelve. Since my dad sold and serviced jukeboxes and other coin-operated machines, I was probably the only kid on the block who had one of these devices. Because of my limited vision, it was nice not having to manipulate a needle over a record in order to hear my favorite songs.

In this tune, it’s not clear whether the person is dying from a terminal illness or is on Death Row about to be executed. That can be left up to the listener’s imagination. No matter the cause of death, it’s hard to die when spring is in the air.

Terry Jacks–Seasons in the Sun

Lyrics Courtesy of Google

Goodbye to you my trusted friend
We’ve known each other since we were nine or ten
Together we’ve climbed hills and trees
Learned of love and ABC’s
Skinned our hearts and skinned our knees
Goodbye my friend it’s hard to die
When all the birds are singing in the sky
Now that spring is in the air
Pretty girls are everywhere
Think of me and I’ll be there
We had joy, we had fun
We had seasons in the sun
But the hills that we climbed
Were just seasons out of time
Goodbye Papa please pray for me
I was the black sheep of the family
You tried to teach me right from wrong
Too much wine and too much song
Wonder how I got along
Goodbye Papa it’s hard to die
When all the birds are singing in the sky
Now that the spring is in the air
Little children everywhere
When you see them, I’ll be there
We had joy, we had fun
We had seasons in the sun
But the wine and the song
Like the seasons have all gone
We had joy, we had fun
We had seasons in the sun
But the wine and the song
Like the seasons have all gone
Goodbye Michelle my little one
You gave me love and helped me find the sun
And every time that I was down
You would always come around
And get my feet back on the ground
Goodbye Michelle it’s hard to die
When all the birds are singing in the sky
Now that the spring is in the air
With the flowers everywhere
I wish that we could both be there
Songwriters: Jacques Brel / Rod Mckuen
Seasons in the Sun lyrics © Carlin America Inc

 

 

My Books

 

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

How to Build a better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

We Shall Overcome

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Review: Until I Say Goodbye

Abbie-1

Until I Say Goodbye: My Year of Living with Joy

 

by Susan Spencer-Wendel

Copyright 2013.

 

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” The author uses this quote from Dr. Seuss in her bestselling memoir where she details one year of her life after being diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease. People with this condition can live for years with a ventilator and other equipment, but this journalist for The Palm Beach Post and mother of three in Florida decided to quit her job, live with joy, and not try to prolong her life.

She talks about how she spent a year traveling with family and friends: to the Yukon to see the northern lights with her best friend, a cruise on the Caribbean with her sister, a trip to Budapest, Hungary, with her husband John to re-live their years together there, a visit to her deceased birth father’s family in Cypress, a trip to New York City with her teen-aged daughter, who tried on wedding dresses for an event her mother would never witness, and other family vacations. She also explains how and why she got permanent make-up and arranged for a hut to be built in the family’s back yard.

She provides plenty of back story about her life growing up with her adoptive parents and how she met and married John and the adventures they had before settling down with their family in Florida. She discusses meeting her birth mother in California and learning about her birth father and how this affected her relationship with her adoptive mother. She describes how she wrote this book on her iPhone, since her hands were too weak to use even an iPad keyboard.

I like the way she ends the book by spelling out her children’s names as if she were typing them on her iPhone and then inserting the quote by Dr. Seuss. In this way, she leaves readers with the impression that a loved one’s death shouldn’t be a sad occasion. According to an Associated Press article, she stayed alive until September of this year. I wish my late husband had lived long enough to read this book. Maybe Susan Spencer-Wendel’s account of how she tapped out her story on her iPhone with one finger might have inspired him to write My Ideal Partner with me.

Several years ago, I suggested we write a book together, detailing his strokes and rehabilitation and my experiences with caregiving. Because this would have been tough for him, only able to type with one hand, I suggested, half in jest, that I tap the keys on the left side of the computer and he tap the ones on the right. In answer, he said, “I’d rather do this on the piano with you.”

“Never mind,” I told myself after he passed. “I’ll write my own book.” And I did.

***

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

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