I’ve been listening to NPR and The Diane Rehm Show for many years now. Many of the books I’ve read are books I learned about on Rehm’s show when she’d interview authors about their latest publications. I’ve also enjoyed the insights into various topics on her show as well. Despite being an avid listener of her show, I somehow was unaware that she had a few books of her own published. To my delight, I came across her most recent memoir in my local library, On My Own.
Due to the book’s short length, I was initially going to include it in my “holiday week reading wrap up” but when I began reading it, I realized that this book deserved a post to itself. The subject matter is too important to be thrown in with the other three books I read over the course of the week.
On My Own is Diane Rehm’s reflections on her life immediately following the death of her husband of 54 years, John Rehm. John had Parkinson’s disease and as the disease took over his body, he began to lose his ability to function. In early June of 2014, John made the decision that he’d refuse food, water and medication which ultimately lead to his death on June 24, 2014.
John’s death immediately changed Diane’s life. She had never lived on her own before and as she approached the age of 80, she was faced with living a life without the person who had been next to her for over half a century. Rehm discusses how loneliness, grief and sadness affected her personal and professional life. The circumstances of John’s death turned Diane into an advocate for the right to die movement. Her advocacy for this caused a stir in the NPR headquarters as she began speaking, and ultimately representing this controversial stance.
The book is set up in a series of what appears to be both journal entries and essays. The journal entries are far more personal as Rehm reflects on the life she once had with John, including traditions the two of them had around the holidays and different memories the two made with each other. The essays are generally more topical and talk about grief, death and the politics that relate to them. Both of these formats work well together in this book offering a comprehensive look into the mind of someone who is trying to maneuver through life in the wake of all of these traumatic changes that have taken place.
Some of the more difficult parts of this short memoir are when Diane takes into consideration her own death – you can see she has a trepidation as she considers the last days of her life. She is adamant that she is given her own right to die as she refuses to die without any dignity. Diane mentions the death of her parents in here quite often – insisting that her dad died 11 months after her mother of a ‘broken heart’ – and as I read through her memoir, I could only think that Diane believed she’d have the same fate – a death due caused by a broken heart at the loss of her beloved, John.
On My Own is only 162 pages, and can easily be read in one sitting – I do recommend this book. I believe that I will be buying a copy for myself