This week I finished my nineteenth book, The Long Goodbye: Memories of My Father by Patti Davis.
Patti Davis is Ronald Reagan’s daughter. This book is about their life together and her long goodbye to her father who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 1994 and passed away in 2004.
I learned a lot about our former president from this book. But more importantly this book gave me language and a better understanding of the agonizing process of long goodbyes to loved ones who are diagnosed with degenerative and incurable illnesses.
This book felt deeply personal because I read the whole thing through the lens of my father-in-law’s life with and death from Parkinson’s disease. This made it a difficult book to finish but one I felt committed to in order to help process and give language to my grief, my husband’s grief and my mother-in-law’s grief as well as her experience with loving and caring for my father-in-law through each year of his illness.
I am grateful for writers who are willing to write about such vulnerable and painful experiences. It is a comfort and a blessing to those of us searching for the language to express where we have been and where we have ended up. It is also a comfort to learn we are not alone in our grief and in the questions we have about life and love and death.
I would recommend this book to anyone who has experienced a loved one diagnosed with a degenerative disease or anyone curious about the life and death of Ronald Reagan through the eyes of his daughter. I am grateful to have read this and I will leave you with a few of my favorite quotes from it,
“Time carries us like a river and we change along the way. In learning to grieve, we grow into the people we were always meant to be. We look behind to who we were in order to understand who we have become.”
“Yet writing has been the one constant in my life; it’s anchored me, flooded me, made me want to survive.”
“In death, as in birth, there are screams and tears, and awe at the fierce majesty of it all. If we’re lucky, we step up to those raw, blinding moments with a gentle, immense courage.”
“Trusting that in death there is also birth.”
“Grieving is a learned art. It doesn’t get easier but it does get smoother. You learn the pathways through it and around it.”
“I wish I had accepted his invitation to talk. I wish I had listened to him. Not because I think anyone’s view points would have changed but because listening is a loving thing to do and because he deserved that much from me.”
“So we light lanterns and leave them on the road behind us for those coming after.”