There is no way to predict how one will react when a parent dies, but through journaling, Dianne Porter has put together some recollections and reflections that may resonate with those facing such a situation.
After Porter’s father passed away suddenly while working in his garden, her elderly mother Helen was on her own, with Porter as her nearby caregiver. Three years later, Helen succumbed to cancer after a persistent battle.
The author details the long months overseeing Helen’s treatment and watching her mother’s vitality return as she greeted her many visitors; remarkably, Porter drew strength from her mother’s dignity and grit even as she was fading from life. She describes her efforts to carry out the funeral arrangements her parents had insisted on, recalling her feelings at seeing the dead bodies of each parent, and the experience — at first morbid, later uplifting — of scattering their ashes. In the aftermath of Helen’s death, Porter realizes that the family life she has cherished for so long is over and that she is “alone but strangely not lonely.”
Structured as a chronology, on pages decorated with what appear to be morning glory vines, the book is clearly meant as a story — of trauma, courage, sadness, and joy. The family shares a love of music, and Porter has interspersed in the text a few original songs appropriate to her timeframe.
Composed creatively, but at times overburdened with extraneous personal detail, the memoir’s strength is in the valuable pointers gained by walking in the author’s shoes. Readers will see the importance of: planning courageously for the loss of a loved one; experiencing it fully; respecting family differences; expecting anger and confusion as well as grief; and looking for lessons to help them (and their family members) prepare for their own demise.
Porter’s chronicle will be appreciated by those who loved her parents, and by others seeking advice about end-of-life care for family members.