Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Q&A with Joanne Tubbs Kelly




Joanne Tubbs Kelly is the author of the new book Walking Him Home: Helping My Husband Die with Dignity. She worked in the field of marketing communications, and she lives in Boulder, Colorado.


Q: I'm so sorry about the loss of your husband...why did you decide to write Walking Him Home?


A: When I’m faced with new situations, I’ve always turned to books to see how others have navigated the journey. When Alan was sick and it was becoming clearer that he would choose to end his life using medical aid in dying, I went searching for a memoir that would light my way.


I wanted to know how a spouse manages to support her partner’s end-of-life choices when she desperately wants him to live. But I came up empty handed. So I wrote the memoir I had wanted to read.


Q: You describe some very difficult times--what impact did it have on you to write the book?


A: Writing the book helped me hold Alan close for almost two years after he died. I relived our conversations daily and ran my mental newsreel of events on endless loops. When I finally had to relinquish my manuscript to my publisher, I was bereft for months. It felt like I was easing my grip on Alan, not just the manuscript.


Q: The writer Pete Earley said of the book, “Joanne Kelly has written a timeless memoir about the joy of midlife romance, the give and take of marriage, the sheer wonder of loving someone completely, and the courage it takes to help your partner say a final good-bye after a terminal illness strikes.” What do you think of that description?


A: I am delighted that Pete was so generous with his praise, and thrilled that he focused on the love in my memoir. His quote emphasizes that this is not a “downer” book about death, but a story about helping your partner achieve the most loving ending you can arrange.


Q: What do you hope readers take away from your story?


A: I hope readers let go of some of the fear of death that abounds in our culture and that they see that medical aid in dying is one way to have a peaceful, tender death.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Medical aid in dying is a way for a mentally competent adult to receive a prescription from a medical professional for a life-ending drug. The patient must have a prognosis of six months or less and be able to ingest the medication him- or herself.


As Washington Post columnist George Will says, “Medical aid in dying is for preventing a hideous death, not for truncating an unhappy life.”


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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