“Dear Ones.” So begins each of an extraordinary collection of letters written to friends and family by Catherine Royce as she contemplated how she would live out her life as it was slowly taken from her by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease).
Writing with great humor, candor, and insight, Catherine stares, unblinking, into the glare of her own mortality. She asks tough questions about living, dying, and her personal relationship with God, and makes a conscious choice both to live her life as fully as possible every day, and to embrace her death as the ultimate gift and adventure. The letters begin as a journal of her trip to India for Ayurvedic treatment after her diagnosis of ALS at the age of 54, and continue after her return to her home in Dorchester, Massachusetts. They chronicle her deep exploration of her personal spiritual beliefs, and how living her life with her death clearly before her both challenged and ultimately bolstered those beliefs. Her meditations in the deep questions of grace, her search for God in herself, and the meaning of life and death play out against the backdrop of her day to day challenges and triumphs.In her essay for the NPR series, “This I believe”, Catherine gave voice to her belief that, no matter what life hands her, she always has a choice.
"Every day I choose not only how I will live, but if I will live. I can choose to see ALS as nothing more than a death sentence or I can choose to see it as an invitation – an opportunity to learn who I truly am.” That she truly lived these words is evident on every page of her letters to her “Dear Ones.” In them she inspires us to view life’s challenges as opportunities to strengthen our own understanding and spiritual connectedness.
I begin by acknowledging that the existence of this book is indeed a great help for those who are going through something a tad similar albeit it for various other reasons. The thought of imminent death is indeed a fearful one and we all react to it differently according to our own circumstances. I did benefit from the book and it has highlighted that there is a general shared theme, but none the less our own unique circumstances will influence how and what we tend to think about on our route out of this world.
Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?
Yes. I really enjoyed this book. I think in part, because of her humor in facing distress as well as her total willingness to face and accept her fate.
What other book might you compare Wherever I Am, I’m Fine to and why?
I'm looking for that myself.
Which character – as performed by Becket Royce McGough and Amanda Royce-Hale – was your favorite?
Obviously Catherine. She was approachable, funny, although a bit too staunch at times. She seemed aloof to herself regarding her diagnosis, yet seemed unmiffed by others approaching it with her.
What insight do you think you’ll apply from Wherever I Am, I’m Fine?
Finding courage to laugh at almost every event in dying while living.
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