RAMBLINGS: A bitter-sweet review of: The Unwinding of the Miracle: A Memoir of Life, Death, and Everything That Comes After, by Julie Yip-Williams

It was always an inside joke for me, from back in the days when you went to Blockbuster to rent DVDs or even VHS tapes, I would say that when Denise picked out a movie, it is always about someone slowly dying of cancer. I would also tell her that life has too many real sorrows to spend two hours of “entertainment” living in someone else’s sorrowfulness.

I am consuming books now at a remarkable pace, mostly due to harmonizing listening to books on MP3 (while reading others in hard copy) while I do house chores and other things. I’ve been going through 2-3 per week. I am trying to pick the best written books, hoping that it would help me as a writer, before my mind gets too foggy from either illness, treatments thereof, or age.

I have found a system in the Washington State Libraries for searching for books, based on their merits of good writing. I have found some spectacular ones that left me spellbound by the pure art of the wordsmithery. My latest book, which I finished during the night, was the title mentioned above. I started this book on the night last week when I felt totally discouraged. I laid my head on my pillow, lights out, ready to listen for an hour. Denise needs to go to sleep earlier than I do, so I go to bed with her and listen to my books for the first hour.

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Julie Yip-Williams

In that discouraged state, as I started to listen, the forward explained the topic. Until then I had no idea what the book was about. But it explains that it is the autobiographical account of Julie’s five-year battle and death from cancer. I hit the pause button and mumbled to myself, “You must be freaking kidding me?”

I debated in my mind if I would continue. It is like how some people going in for heart surgery want to pretend that its not happening, just to dodge the worry. Others prefer to watch a full, color, video of the procedure with close ups, over and over. I really wasn’t wanting to “watch the video” of my worst possible life ahead. However, the draw of the being nominated for Pulitzer, drew me in… besides, I had no other books lined up to listen to and I was not ready to sleep.

It is a long book and I listened to it quickly, hours per day, mostly during the night. It is certainly a deeply heart wrenching story of hope . . . hope dashed . . . suffering . . . and death.  However, Julie writes beautifully and even far more candid that I do here. It is a dissection of the soul in its most vulnerable places.

I highly recommend the book, based on the good writing and the fact of how she unravels her miracle of life, and ask all the emotionally hard questions that we all should ask, but are afraid to. She arrives at different answers than I do for some of them. I am glad that I’m done with it and I will not read another book on such topics (I did read Tom Brokaw’s book about his cancer, because it is the same as mine).

However, Julie expresses so well the emotions that us–who face such a personal crisis—deal with. The one bright spot for me was how she also expresses those deeply selfish thoughts, which I wrestle with, but she expresses it more clearly and boldly than I could. I found myself even smiling at places.

For example, there is the health-envy that I must deal with daily. The author describes going to a mother’s get together (she has two young girls). The other moms don’t know she has stage IV colon cancer, yet. But one of the other moms is beautiful, well-dressed, and beaming of health. It made Julie so angry that she fantasized about beating the shit out of the woman. It of course wasn’t the woman’s fault. But I wrestle with this same attitude at times. Just ask Denise, when I see someone running, especially if they are near my age, I mumble “bastard” as they pass by. The same is true when I hear of people’s plans of exotic travel or retiring to Europe (that had been my dream). She makes the statement, “While we are familiar with the saying that youth is wasted on the young, I now also believe that health is wasted on the healthy and life is wasted on the living.”

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Julie, her husband Josh and daughters, prior to being diagnosed

Julie also describes, several times, her imaginary hatred for her husband Josh’s next wife. They were only in their early 40s so, she assumed that he would marry again. In her more sober moments, she also expresses that of course she wants him to re-marry for his happiness and to give a mother to her daughters, but that rational wish does not blunt the emotional rage of her life, the one that she worked so hard to create as a wife and mother, being stolen by an unknown stranger.

First, I don’t know how much time I have… maybe months, maybe years, and if I am really, really lucky, a decade or two. I may know more about this next week. I don’t know if Denise will remarry, and it is really none of my business. But I have told her, mostly to be funny, who she cannot marry (like old boyfriends, body builders, or a doctor). I have also said, mostly to be funny, is that I want her to marry a real loser just so it would be a constant reminder to her that I wasn’t so bad.

So that’s may take on this wonderful but deeply sad book.  I have to now get it out of my head as I still carry a flavor of sadness from it. I also need to stop writing these Ramblings so I can get back to my final editing my own novel, Christina Athena; The Girl with the Headaches

Mike

 

2 thoughts on “RAMBLINGS: A bitter-sweet review of: The Unwinding of the Miracle: A Memoir of Life, Death, and Everything That Comes After, by Julie Yip-Williams

  1. JMJ…

    When I started in diagnostic limbo regarding my prostate (three years, two biopsies, one MRI, and counting), I discovered that everyone who heard about it was immediately magically geased to tell me all about everyone they knew who died of prostate cancer. (When one of my IPMS chapter was diagnosed, I told him that now everyone he encounters will be similarly geased and to pack a baseball bat for attitude adjustment.) And you’re in a worse position!

    And I’ve never been diagnosed! (All biopsies NEGATIVE though with PSA constantly shooting up and fluctuating wildly, my urologist calls for Biopsy Biopsy Biopsy almost every visit). I can only imagine what you’re going through with actual cancer — everything and everyone around you will now be magically geased to either dodge the subject completely or tell you nothing but cancer, cancer, cancer.

    And beware of support groups. If that local prostate support group I dropped in on is typical, all they talk about is cancer cancer cancer cancer cancer. It’s their entire life, the universe, and everything. They have no other life than obsessing over cancer – as far as I’m concerned, the disease got them anyway, they’re just walking around.

    On books, did you ever get around to “Here Comes a Candle”? And a velo-bound fanfic novel “My Little Balladeer”? I vaguely remember sending them a year or three ago, but my memory is swiss cheese these days.

    And do you still look like Rudyard Kipling with the chrome dome and ‘stache?

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    1. I’m sorry but I can’t remember for sure. I know I read your previous work and I think I read this latest. But now, I can’t remember. I went to e-mail you but it appears that our old e-mails have been purged and I no longer have your address. I haven’t looked at the later either, not recently.

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