I’m not immune to the irony of learning about what is / should be important in life, career, relationships from someone, significantly younger than I, who is coming to grips with her own premature death.
Earlier this month, I read a fairly lengthy article by journalist Louise France about Kate Gross – a 36 year old career woman with twins of 5 who, 2 years earlier, had been diagnosed with cancer of the colon.
The article ended with an extract from the book Gross had started writing as she confronted the imminent reality of the end of her life. The extract was lively, thought provoking, almost brutally honest. It was hard to reconcile this very immediate ‘voice’ with the reality of a postscript stating that Kate had died at home on Christmas Day.
I bought the book – Late Fragments; Everything I want to tell you (about this magnificent life) – paying double for a hardback rather than an ebook version because the extracts I had read made me believe it was a book that I might want to dip in and out of. I read it over a weekend and knew as soon as I’d finished it that I would be reading it again. And probably again after that.
Why do some books speak so powerfully to their readers?
Louise France expressed it well: “Gross is a gifted writer, with an innate sense of the right words in the right order. It is impossible to read her without being pulled up short: inspired by her joy in life, thankful for your own health, moved that this family is still functioning, wondering what you would do in the same situation. … Her book, Late Fragments, written in the first instance for her sons, [is] a memoir about both how to die and how to live, it is funny and wise.”
Although, on the surface, there are (were) few similarities between Gross and me, she was a person whose appreciation of life’s rich tapestry and ability to inspire others through her writing I certainly aspire to.