Hits and Misses

Hits and Misses

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Knocking on Heaven's Door

If you are young enough to have a seventy-year-old (or older) parent, or old enough to be getting close to that age yourself, you should run, not walk, to buy a copy of Katy Butler's Knocking on Heaven's Door:  The Path to a Better Way of Death (Scribner, 2013).

By turns a memoir about her parents Jeff and Valerie as first one and then the other declines and dies, an unsparing account of her own frustrations about never being able to cope with her mother, let alone live up to her expectations, and a clear-eyed analysis of the too-often-unspoken mores of the medical profession that value (and reward) the prolongation of life over any other concern, Knocking on Heaven's Door will leave you shaken.

More than that, however, you may well begin thinking about your own future.  What do you want out of life?  How do you want it to end?  For most of us, the choices may not be as simple as the bang or the whimper we used to believe were the two witty alternatives.  Jeff Butler had a pacemaker installed while he was in relatively good health.  But when his health began to fail, that pacemaker kept his heart beating long after almost everything else of him had ceased to function.  No doctor wanted to turn it off--and that was only one of the problems Valerie Butler faced.  Caring for her husband at home probably shortened her own life.  After his death, she began to fail.  The good news is that the negative experiences of caring for her husband had taught her enough that, with her daughter's help, she was able to make better choices for herself about the best way to die.

May we all have the courage Valerie Butler had, and may we all read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the path to a better way of death that Katy Butler has described in Knocking on Heaven's Door.  Lots of books have the potential to change your life; this one could change your death.

Highly recommended.

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