Summer Hiking

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Mt. Constitution

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The End of Your Life Book Club

Sometimes I read a book that touches my soul and I want to remember what I've read.  I've been reading true stories lately and find them more meaningful that most fiction I've read this year.  This book is the inspiring true story of a son and his mother, who start a "book club" that brings them together as her life comes to a close.  Mary Anne Schwalbe and her son, Will, form a book club when she's diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  Both avid readers, they carry on conversations about faith, courage, expressing gratitude, and learning how to listen.

I like to read, but often hear my mother saying, "it's such a waste of time, you need to be doing some-
thing productive!" Mary Anne said, "reading isn't the opposite of doing, it's the opposite of dying."  At one point in the book Will wrote, "we love to read books because when we are finished talking about people we know we can talk about the things we've read!  The experience of reading together provided reflection and topics of conversation they would not have otherwise shared.
What's really humbling to me about this book is that 90% of the books and authors they read together I'd never even heard of, such as "The Lizard Cage", "The Bite of the Mango", "The Price of Salt." I felt a little more normal when they talked about "Little Women,"  "The Kite Runner," "The Year of Magical Thinking," and "The Last Lecture."  I feel compelled now to read Susan Halpern's book, "The Etiquette of Illness."  She suggests that we refrain from asking people with a terminal illness, "how are you?"  It's much better to say, "Do you feel like talking about how you are feeling today?"

He also wrote that after Mary Anne died they found 27 pair of reader glasses tucked in drawers, chairs, in baskets, and on top of end tables and night stands.

I buy Dollar Store readers because I keep losing them, although I have spent $18.99 at Costco a time or two for 3 pair.  I noticed that my sister, Karen, tucked a pair into one of the drawers at the Johnson cabin so we'd have help reading recipes for checking our Email on the IPAD when we are there.  I've wondered if croakies or eyewear retainers would help me keep track of all those glasses.  Or maybe I need to invest in those more expensive ones that snap together in the front, above the nose.  You'll notice the glasses on my night stand by the book - for some reason they've not disappeared.  They were the first pair of readers I ever bought, 1.25 over 15 years ago!!  I've used them only for bed time reading and my eyes have not changed in 15 years.

Will writes about his mother's ability to read an entire book at one sitting - something I've never done, mostly because reading relaxes me and I usually fall asleep quickly.  It takes me a long time to read a book - I usually have to renew those I check out of the library because I'm so slow.  I've been trying to check out large print books now and it seems to help my eyes from getting so tired.  Sometimes listening to a book on tape in my car is a better way for me to get through a book quickly.


Mary Anne survived pancreatic cancer for over a year.  She continued to read the Bible, The Book of Common Prayer and Daily Strength for Daily Needs.  After his mother died Will wrote, "Next to Mom's bed was Daily Strength for Daily Needs, still with the bookmark in it marking the entry for Friday, September 11(the day she died in 2009).  I looked in the book first for the Bible passage for that day.  It was the shortest entry in the whole book, just three simple words:

Thy Kingdom Come.

Then I read the rest of the page.  At the bottom was a quote from John Ruskin:

If you do not wish for His kingdom, don't pray for it.  But if you do, you must do more than pray for it; you must work for it.  

I believe those were the last words Mom ever read."

My sisters and I have compiled a list of our favorite books and we, too, have something to talk about when we've finished talking about all the quirky people in the Kopczynski family.  Sisters, add this one to your list!!


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