“We are born alone and die alone, but all my favorite moments of life had been spent with someone else.” –Susan Spencer-Wendel
I have had this book sitting on my Kindle waiting to be reviewed for a long time now. I can’t quite figure out how to explain to you that you should read it. Because you will love it. Because you will be challenged by it. Because you will see that it is possible to live with joy. In any circumstance.
In 2011, Susan Spencer-Wendel is diagnosed with ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. She knows that this diagnosis means a loss of her career, her mobility, her freedom, and ultimately her life. And her life is not simply the breath in her lungs, it is also a husband and children, friends and family. Once she receives this diagnosis, she decides to live these last days fully. To give her children and her husband memories to help them through the hard days ahead. She says this, “I thought of my new uncertainty: How long can I live with ALS? I thought, ‘Don’t search for answers. Live the question.’ Enjoy life more because of the uncertainty, not less.” She takes trips with her children, and her husband, and her best friend Nancy. She lives her life while she still can. And when she is incapable of the outward, physical side of life, these same people step in and perform each and every task for her.
I remember describing Until I Say Goodbye: My Year of Living with Joy to someone while I was reading it. I started crying, and I know they were thinking, “Why are you reading that book if it’s so sad?” But the thing is, it’s not sad while you’re reading it. It really is filled with joy. Somehow, Susan manages to truly live with joy. She pulls her mind out of the funk as often as she has to and reminds herself of the joy to be found. And in doing so, she will remind you too. The story is sad. But the telling is incredible. It offers hope. Susan reminds us to live our own lives no matter what the circumstances. To love your children and husband with everything you’ve got.
I’ll leave you with this thought of Susan’s. It may show you a little bit of why I enjoyed this book so much.
“I said I felt like the luckiest person in the world.
And I did.
I might have been dying, but that night- on that terrace, after that meal, with those people- I was experiencing the full wonder of life.
I had arrived a stranger, but I was leaving with a new family.
I was unafraid.