Sunday, November 13, 2016

On My Own by Diane Rehm

Diane Rehm certainly needs no introduction to NPR listeners. She had hosted a radio show since 1979 on WAMU. Her shows are political, social,  and powerful. In 2014 John, her husband of 54 years, passed away after starving himself to death. It was a passing of his choice to end his suffering from Parkinson's disease. 

On My Own recounts the year following John's death as Rehm tries to come to terms with having watched her husband suffer and her widowhood. The memoir is touching and poignant. You can almost hear her raspy voice telling her story. She describes how difficult it is to face the holidays without him and the loneliness of their condo. She confronts her guilt in not being able to take care of John in the final stages of his illness, as well as being able to help him carry out his wishes to die. Her comfort comes from Maxie, her dog. 

But more than anything On My Own, is a treatise that speaks loudly for death with dignity. She compares John's prolonged suffering with other friends, Roger Mudd's wife and best friend Janet Dixon,  who died suddenly. She writes“I rage at a system that would not allow John to be helped toward his own death. He was of rational mind, with no hope of recovery, knowing full well that the only way ahead was a slow downward slide, moving toward more incapacity and even greater indignity." 

Rehm indicates in her book that she will retire after the presidential election. It is almost certain that she will be using her voice to speak out for the right to die. On My Own is a short easy read, but it really is not easy to read. She will speak 14 November 2016 at the Pittsburgh Ten Literary Nights Lectures and it will be interesting to see what she will say about her book, life with John, and life after The Diane Rehm Show.

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