As a memoir lover, pre-ordering this book meant it would arrive on my doorstep as soon as it was released in April. The wisdom contained in it moved me so much, I needed to sit with it before words began to form.
Bless the Birds is prophetic and visionary … a love story that is needed on so many levels to guide us during the times in which we live.
After pondering its message in my heart, I offer this review.
A Common Path
It is no secret that we live in a youth-worshipping, death-denying culture. We no longer revere the wisdom born of long years. We look to the medical profession to temper the effects of aging and shield us from the process of dying.
…scientific advances have turned the processes of aging and dying into medical experiences, matters to be managed by healthcare professionals. … The reality has been largely hidden, as the final phases of life become less familiar to people. ~Atul Gawande in Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End
Gawande points out that in 1945 (during my lifetime), most deaths occurred in homes. By the 1980s, just 17 percent did. In the industrialized world, the experience of advanced aging and dying has shifted to hospitals and nursing homes. He notes how alarmingly unprepared the medical world is to manage the processes of aging and dying.
In 2011, Susan Tweit was forced to face the reality of death.
Seeing flocks of birds no one else could see harkened the advent of her robust 59-year-old husband’s journey with terminal brain cancer. At the same time, her almost 80-year-old mother was in the process of dying from Alzheimer’s and other ailments associated with aging.
Susan and Richard had loved each other deeply from the time they met 29 years previously. Susan blessed those birds. Their appearance gave the two of them time to decide how they would go on living and loving during Richard’s time of dying … during her mother’s time of dying.
Choosing a Different Path
Richard and Susan sought the best available medical resources, hoping for a cure. But when it became clear their time together was short, they chose to live fully “in the light of what they loved rather than the darkness of what they feared.” They embarked on a 4000-mile delayed honeymoon trip. Susan’s memoir is structured around this joy-filled and challenging journey.
The intentionality with which Susan and Richard approached the unwanted reality of their inevitable parting serves as a rich model. They show the way to live life fully until the very end.
The Personal is Political
The universal wisdom imparted in Bless the Birds makes it much more than a memoir about her loved one’s dying processes.
Told with humor, courageous honesty, and grace, this prophetic memoir makes connections between the personal and the political.
Susan offers her personal journey as both “a prayer and a love song … a guide to how to thrive in a world where all we hold dear seems to be eroding.”
Walking mindfully with those who are dying teaches us who we are and what matters most. ~Susan J. Tweit in Bless the Birds: Living with Love in a Time of Dying
… a scientist trained in plant ecology, a writer, a home renovator, a landscape restorer, a deeply spiritual woman of wisdom, a relational connector, an encourager of others, a feminist, and a lover of life. All these and more demonstrate who she is and what she loves.
What matters to Susan is …
I can attest to Susan’s commitment to thriving. I first became acquainted with her in 2014. We were both part of an on-line writing group through the Story Circle Network. I was immediately drawn to her wisdom and her keen relationality. It was a thrill to meet her in person at a 2016 Story Circle conference. And an even bigger thrill when she agreed to give me a blurb for my memoir, A Long Awakening to Grace.
I remain in awe of the way Susan listens to her body and follows the still small voice of wisdom inside her. Her life continues to unfold in surprising and fulfilling ways. I believe this is so because she walks mindfully, lives abundantly, and loves extravagantly. She knows in her bones what matters most.
A Vision to Light the Way
If you are one who aspires to face aging and death while living fully and thriving … to courageously meet the destructive forces unleashed in our world today with wisdom and extravagant love, Bless the Birds: Living with Love in a Time of Dying, is for you.
This visionary memoir lights the way.