Traveling Solo: A Life Well Lived, A Death Well Planned

Diana E. Williams

Publisher: Amplify Publishing Pages: 208 Price: (hardcover) $28.00 ISBN: 9798891380516 Reviewed: February, 2024 Author Website: Visit »

In this compelling memoir about hope, perseverance and our “last human right,” Diana Williams chronicles her battle with a mysterious, debilitating illness that culminated in her choosing an assisted suicide at Dignitas in Switzerland.

From the outside looking in, Williams’ life was amazing: loving marriage, two incredible daughters, a devoted best friend, and deeply fulfilling work as the founder and director of Prison to Employment Connection at San Quentin. But behind the smile was a woman coping with unimaginable physical and emotional pain. In this heartbreaking story of suffering, Williams weaves together her intense love of life with the why behind her choosing an assisted death.

For decades, bouts of severe flu-like symptoms left her bedridden. Williams states that “desperation hooks us on hope”: She spent exorbitant sums on medical interventions, as well as a variety of fringe treatments with psychedelics and unproven trial procedures in other countries. Her marriage ended. Then she was hit by a car. By 2018, she added a traumatic brain injury to her list of possible ailments that included “Lyme disease, chronic fatigue, and toxic mold exposure”—all of which are incurable.

Williams’ transparency, coupled with her superb descriptive writing, immerses readers in her experiences, enabling them to feel the emotional rise and fall of the “cycles of hope and despair” that she endured at the hands of medical practitioners. Benevolently, she refrains from trying to sway opinion on her ultimate solution, letting readers come to their own conclusions.

As her death day approaches, Williams’s writing ebbs away. Readers may lament not having a bird’s eye view of Williams’s last moments, yet the book’s abrupt ending beautifully mirrors Williams’s abrupt death. Her deep appreciation for life—like reminiscing over how her daughter’s “newborn ear felt like a rose petal between my fingers”—lingers after her story ends, gently nudging us to think about death in new ways and to realize the priceless value of health.

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