He was ready to make the call.
We weren’t. But it was his decision.
When my father got his diagnosis for incurable lung cancer, he shortly decided to call in hospice.
He didn’t want to suffer needlessly through futile treatments just to prolong a painful existence. So his choice was to stay at home and receive hospice care.
Such was reality. It was a hard season for all of us.
You don’t often read stories like that in novels. But for her debut novel, A Storied Life, Leigh Kramer gives us a story like this. About real life.
Leigh writes about real life as she has experienced it. She was once a hospice social worker. She’s familiar with the world of loss and death that eventually visits every family. She writes with depth and gives us a main character with heart.
The leading lady in her novel is Olivia Frasier, a young professional who is ambivalent about her family of origin and her own life choices as an adult. She’s established herself in a career as the owner of her own art gallery, but you sense early on that it doesn’t satisfy her. She is unsettled.
The story progresses quickly to a dysfunctional family scene. Gram gathers the family to share her life-changing news of being diagnosed with terminal cancer. The family doesn’t want to accept it.
But after Gram’s proclamation comes a second curveball. She throws her granddaughter Olivia into a new and unrequested position: Power of Attorney for Healthcare.
As the novel progresses, we walk with Olivia through the ups and downs of hospice and healthcare as she explores this new role, her old role, and a new love interest.
“Fine. What have you always told me? To live a storied life. Am I doing that? What do you think?”
The story isn’t light-hearted, naturally. It reveals the difficult decisions and emotions that accompany the dynamics of a family in life and death situations. But it is satisfying. Through it all we discover how Olivia grows into a greater knowledge of herself, her career, and her relationships.
“Gram’s teaching came to mind. Authentic people told the truth, even when there was no guarantee.”
I enjoyed the story and was impressed at Leigh’s venture into novel writing. I’m not surprised that she did well though; Leigh is a voracious reader, and one often leads to the other. I look forward to future works from Leigh.
“Nothing was set in stone, but it didn’t need to be. I would live this out one step at a time. Part of the adventure of life was not knowing exactly what it held. That’s what kept the story fresh. Each chapter had the potential to break your heart or lift your spirits.”
My father only lived a few short weeks under hospice care. That chapter in his and our lives ended quicker than we expected or wanted.
But because it was on his own terms, we respected him for it. If we’re each so blessed, we, too, will live out our stories, including our death stories, with care and grace. One step at a time.
* * *
Have you had experiences with hospice for yourself or a loved one? Please share in the comments.
You can read more from Leigh on her blog LeighKramer.com. Leigh is also the hostess of the monthly “What I’m Into” linkup, which I thoroughly enjoy participating in at the first of every month.
If you want to win a free signed annotated copy of A Storied Life, head over to Leigh’s Instagram. Giveaway ends June 27.
My thanks to Leigh Kramer
for the review copy of this book