Author: Katy Butler
Dying. The verb itself is capable of causing fear and anxiety. To glimpse our termination (or that of someone we love), even if only at a glance, can be so distressing as to make us ignore the only certainty we all have in our lives: that it will end. We are not only afraid of dying, but of dying badly, dying in pain, and leaving behind nothing worth remembering. The irony lies in the fact that it is precisely because we allow ourselves to be paralyzed by fear that we increase our chances of ending our days just like this: far from what is important to us, sometimes plunged into suffering and loneliness.
Katy Butler masterfully uses her ability to write about what is uncomfortable or scary in this process, determined to show other ways to end an existence more fully and closer to what we deserve. At times, her writing is light and welcoming, inviting us to be more tolerant with ourselves and to reflect on our priorities and values. At other times, it is assertive and relentless, bluntly exposing how responsible we are for ourselves and how we will get to the end of the road.
Katy is not a doctor, nor is she even in the health field (she is a journalist). Even so (or maybe because of this), she can see and describe in a surprising way the enormity of attitudes and choices that we can adopt during our lives (and not only in its last moments) to make the end of the story more serene and meaningful. Using real stories, she does not neglect any aspect: from physical health care to the choice of daily activities, from the establishment of emotional ties to financial planning, from the choice of health professionals to the adaptation of housing, from the development of spirituality to the bureaucratic issues surrounding the end of life. Every detail contributes to increase or decrease our chances of staying as long as possible away from hospitals and ICUs, of needing to rely on strangers for the simplest tasks, and of dying in peace with ourselves and those around us. She insists (rightly so) on the need to think more about terminality and to effectively prepare for it, not delegating to health professionals or our families the responsibility for our final moments. She encourages us to seek partnership relations with these people, as advocated by the most basic principles of Slow Medicine.
Her book, far from being depressing or scary, takes us on a journey that begins long before the end when we still have health, the capacity to work, plans, and the possibility to transform our relationships. At each stage, Katy opens our eyes to what people often overlook that can affect their future. She manages to be incredibly practical in her statements, but not at all superficial: each pertinent point forces us to rethink our choices and, who knows, change course while there is still time. It is a valuable book, one of those that no one should fail to read.
Book review wrote by Ana Coradazzi.