THE TIME OF THEIR DYING by Stephen S. Rosenfeld


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Now that I am in my mid-forties, I find that I and almost everyone of my generation are. . . readier to share accounts of failing parents than to tell and hear. . . stories of growing children."" Washington Post columnist Rosenfeld hereby shares his own involvement with his late parents and what he calls ""the manner of their dying,"" not only in tribute to those he loved and admired, but as an exploration of the deepening ""emotional and psychological vitality"" which resulted. Jay and Elizabeth Rosenfeld were vigorous, attractive parents and grandparents, respected and liked in their home town of Pittsfield, Mass. They both died of cancer--Jay at eighty, Elizabeth five months later at seventy. Jay's experience was acute, agonizing, humiliating; except for her discomforts from chemotherapy, Elizabeth seemed to quietly wither away. The author recalls the all-too-familiar decline of the cancer patient--plateaus of coping and oases of ""tuning out,"" abrupt changes in mood, outbursts of fear, bewilderment, and grief, and the final defeat. Throughout, Rosenfeld remembers happy days; picks through mementos; makes visits, telephones, transports, arranges. He finds, from the results, that his initial instincts were right: to involve his own children in the crisis as an enriching of family love, a furthering of closeness; to do his duty by his parents by being there, listening and communicating--to ""be open and follow the heart."" Although his journey is necessarily personal and in a sense atypical (the Rosenfelds' relative affluence and the author's job mobility widened the choice of care), this is an unflinching look at the hard truths of unlovely death--truths which survivors can not only accept but grow from experiencing.

Pub Date: April 25th, 1977
Publisher: Norton