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

Photo Resize and Description by

Two Pentacles Publishing.

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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.

Photo Resize and Description by

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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Dream

https://abbiescorner.files.wordpress.com/2018/01/dream1.mp3iescorner.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/abbie-12.jpg”>I woke up in a hospital room. In the next bed, a friend of mine, with whom I attend water exercise classes at the YMCA, was talking, apparently, to someone visiting her. It wasn’t clear how I got here, but I had a vague recollection of being sick at home and another friend stopping by and taking me to the emergency room, where I was admitted after a battery of tests.

How had my friend gotten into my house? As sick as I was, it would probably never have occurred to me to unlock the doors so someone could get in, let alone call for help. I’d given my friend a key once so she could stay in my house while I was out of town, but she’d long since returned it to me.

Now, I felt a lot better. I didn’t seem to be attached to an intravenous drip or other equipment. Maybe I should get up, find my clothes, then call a nurse and say I was ready to go home, I thought, but as I lay there, mulling this over, I kept dozing off. I realized that I was still weak and needed rest.

It was only a dream, I realized with relief, as the brightly lit hospital room dissolved into the semi-darkness of my bedroom, and my clock radio came on, signaling that it was time to get up, but it was so real, I thought. As I pulled myself out of bed and started getting ready for my day, I remembered that my late husband Bill had a similar experience when he suffered from West Nile virus two years before we were married. He was sick at home for three days before neighbors looked in on him. He was in bad shape by then, so they called 911. To make a long story short, he was laid up for three months. Was my dream a prediction that this would happen to me?

How about you? Did you ever have a dream that felt so real that you were disappointed or relieved when you woke up? Was this dream based on something that happened to you or someone else? Do you think it’s a prediction of what could happen to you?

Now, please click below to hear me sing about a different kind of dreaming. I hope that for you, bad dreams don’t come true and good ones do.

dream.mp3

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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.

Like me on Facebook.

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Thursday Book Feature: A Town Like Alice

A Town Like Alice

By Nevil Shute

Copyright 1950.

 

Jeanne, a young English woman, is taken prisoner by the Japanese in Malaya during World War II. She and other women and children are marched across Malaya from one village to another. One Japanese commander after another refuses to take responsibility for them and sends them on their way. This goes on for over six months. Under-nourished and receiving little medical attention, fraught with illness, half of them die but not Jeanne.

Along the way, the women are befriended by two Australian soldiers, also prisoners. One of them, Joe, steals several chickens from a nearby Japanese officer’s home in order to feed them. When the Japanese find out, they crucify him and force the women and children to watch, then move on.

Months later, in another village, with the Japanese guard escorting the women dead after an illness, they’re left to their own devices. They work in the village’s rice paddies to support themselves for the next three years until the war ends.

Years later, back in England, Jeanne receives a sizable inheritance from a deceased uncle. Armed with sufficient funds, she returns to the village in Malaya where she and the other women worked in the rice paddies. In gratitude to the villagers for supporting her and the other women during the war, she has a well built in the center of town to make life easier for the women of the village since there is no running water.

She then finds out that Joe survived his ordeal at the hands of the Japanese and travels to Australia to find him. Fate brings them together, and she starts a new life in the outback.

This story is told, in part, by the lawyer in England who manages the trust fund Jeanne’s uncle set up for her in the event of his death. The lawyer relates Jeanne’s story, as she tells it to him in person and through her letters.

In a way, this book reminded me of a memoir I read a couple of years ago. Unbroken is the story of Olympic track star Louis Zamperini’s life in a Japanese concentration camp during World War II. At one point while Jeanne and the other women are marching across Malaya under Japanese guard, she wonders if life would be better in a camp. If she knew what was happening to Zamperini, probably at about the same time…

At the end of the book, the author includes a note in which he explains that during World War II, the Japanese marched a group of women and children across Sumatra, not Malaya. Why, then, did he set that part of the story in Malaya? He should have explained his reason for re-inventing history. Otherwise, if I were Australian, and you were to ask me if this was a good book, I would say, “Oh my word!”

 

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.

Like me on Facebook.