I no longer remember how I learned about Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong. It’s the story of a young woman who moves back home to her parents’ home to help her mom take care of her dad who is dealing with a worsening case of Alzheimer’s disease. I’m interested in stories about how people deal with hard times, so I recently picked this one off my “to read” pile.
The format of the book is unique. The main character moves back into the home she grew up in just after Christmas with the promise to stay a year to help her mom with her dad. Each chapter is a month in that year. The writing is from the perspective of the daughter and is almost like a diary. There are date entries that are further divided into sort sections, some of which are only a sentence long.
The result of this unusual format is a very intimate look at how a young woman deals with the dynamics in her family caused by her dad’s condition. Just before moving back home, she was left by a fiance so she is dealing with change in her own life as well. She doesn’t always handle things well (who would?) and struggles not only to understand what is happening to her father but to herself. Overall this is an excellent piece of literature exploring the challenges we will all face with end of life care for those we love.
Being solidly middle-aged, I have started to experience the fact that I can no longer do many of the things I used to do in my twenties and thirties. And those that I can do, I can’t do to the same extent. I am slower, less nimble, and get tired faster. Naturally, this has led me to think more of my own mortality, both how I can live longer and what will happen when I die. For this last of life’s events I highly recommend The Beginner’s Guide to the End by B. J. Miller and Shoshana Berger.
The book is aimed at the patient but also covers the perspective of caregivers before, during, and after the death process, whether that involves a terminal illness or simple gradual decline. It is very thorough starting with all the things that you can and should do to prepare for this inevitability, such as wills and health care proxies. There is a whole section on illnesses, what to expect at the end, and how to treat symptoms of those who are dying. Perhaps most importantly, it covers how to ask for help as well as where to find it. It is a very thorough and helpful guide for anyone who is close to death or those caring for them.
Given its topic you would be forgiven for thinking that the book is dark and depressing. I did not find it so. Death is an unavoidable part of living, and this book takes a gentle caring approach to this journey. The authors are informative and sympathetic, taking the stigma, ignorance, and fear out of dying.