Reviewed by Sara Padilla
From the very beginning of So Far Away, – a poignant, highly detailed memoir – the reader is told that both Christine Hartmann’s mother and father play a critical role in her life, despite them having separated at a relatively early age in her childhood, and the father taking on full custody of the children, which was rather unusual for the time. The story focuses on the experience of Hartmann as a young adult after her mother informs her of her desire to end her life at the age 70, in order to avoid suffering any unfortunate consequences of old age. As a result, Hartmann spends countless hours arguing and convincing her mother to change her mind, and live out her life in a more ‘natural’ way.
While Hartmann confronts her mother, she is also tending to her father, who has experienced a series of strokes that quickly incapacitate him. To this reader, the greater tragedy was the unexpected deterioration of the writer’s father. An upbeat, astute gentleman and devoted father, the strokes cause severe memory loss and confusion as well as challenging physical problems. Eventually he requires 24-hour nursing care in a facility. His final years in a nursing home environment are not exactly unpleasant, but entirely unexpected. Hartmann has to cope with the loss of how the future may have unfolded, had her father’s medical condition been different. She grieves for both mother and father, before either of them passes away.
The combination of caregiver for her father and would-be conscious for her mother is stressful, and ultimately Hartmann has to come to terms with knowing that the only decisions for which she is responsible are her own.So Far Away is a powerful memoir of two very different end-of-life journeys that will speak to everyone who has been parented, and who has considered their personal wishes and hopes for their final years.
Ms. Sara Padilla is a freelance writer and maintains a personal blog on family, health and wellness. She resides in the Pacific Northwest.
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