Whitaker (I’m Sleeping with the Pastor!, 2013) recalls the final years of her mother’s life and offers practical and moral support for readers caring for ill relatives.
This graceful family memoir begins on the morning of the Christian funeral service for the author’s mother, Mary Scott Jackson, in January 1989. Whitaker was due to deliver the eulogy, titled “All Is Well,” but she didn’t actually feel like everything was right that day; indeed, she wondered how she could get through a speech when her grief was so fresh. It’s an effective, even gripping way to open the story, and Whitaker keeps readers waiting until the final chapter to find out how the eulogy went. Before that, she offers a minibiography of her mother, who was born in Georgia in 1914, worked at Philadelphia’s Jefferson Hospital for 39 years, overcame multiple miscarriages to raise six children, and was heavily involved in her local church. The author also remembers the final three years that her mother lived with her in Dallas. “Mom was my best friend,” the author recalls, which eased the difficulty of accommodating her in the two-bedroom duplex that Whitaker shared with her husband and two sons. Eventually, Jackson’s worsening osteoarthritis led to incontinence and decreased mobility, and a reluctant decision was made to place her in South Dallas Nursing Home in early 1988. Jackson later went into a diabetic coma and recovered, but she finally succumbed to aspiration pneumonia. As appended reflections from the author’s siblings reveal, they regretted putting their mother in a nursing home when she’d specifically stated her opposition to the idea. However, Whitaker consistently reassures readers who might be going through similar situations: “don’t beat yourself up. You didn’t know what the future held, and you have limitations,” she writes. The “Getting Through the Night” tip sections at the end of each chapter are down-to-earth and helpful, featuring pithy advice, such as “Expect emotional spirals.” The number of years that have passed since the events dilute the emotional power of the book somewhat, but this is still a successful remembrance overall.
An encouraging guide, particularly
for Christian caregivers. (17 pages of color family photos)