In the summer of 1990, Cathy Rentzenbrink’s bright and funny brother was hit by a car and left with serious head injuries. Initially hopeful for his recovery, as the months, and years, pass it becomes clear he is not getting better. His diagnosis; Persistent Vegetative State. This raw and moving memoir shows how this family arrived at their last act of love for him, letting him go.

What a moving, honest and brave book. I met Cathy briefly at a book launch and she was friendly, charming and enthusiastic about bookselling. I would never have guessed at what was going on underneath the surface. This book contains the perfect example of why you should never say “it might never happen” to someone looking sad.

My brother did not die. But I did not know then that I was praying for the wrong thing. I did not know then that there is a world between the certainties of life and death, that it is not simply a case of one or the other, and that there are many and various fates worse than death.

Fiction often likes to romanticise comas, but Cathy breaks down that illusion to the hard truth. The heartbreak of loss combined with the hardship of day-to-day life of caring for someone in a Persistent Vegetative State (PVS). To watch as a once vibrant, clever young man exist rather than live. To wonder whether they should have let him die and then the guilt of wanting him dead.

I don’t believe anyone with a heart could read this book without crying. Cathy’s love of her brother shines through and her writing celebrates him as much as it mourns him. She was incredibly close and her grief was prolonged along with his life.

I knew from books that the worst thing was to pretend to be other than you are, so I never wasted time on lying or being ashamed about my background.

The book also covers the decision and legal process of deciding to withdraw food and water, of letting Matty go. Their mother’s affidavit is included and shows a mother who loved her son and wished for a full life for him, who did everything she could after the accident. It shows a legal system that shows compassion. I was expecting it to be more of a battle but everyone involved accepted what was best for him. That his existence was not the life he would have wanted.

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Book Source: Purchased