“You Before Me:” A book club opinion

courtesy/www.penguin.co.uk

courtesy/www.penguin.co.uk

SPOILER ALERT!! – If there’s a wish to read this book without any outside influence or spoilers, it’s probably best to stop reading here, but please come back and visit! If you don’t mind a slight spoiler, please keep reading.

 

I suppose I’d like to start this out with an introduction to the category. I’ve been wishing for a long time to read more and once again, get back to this blog more often because I need to be writing more, not less. It’s been a bit difficult for a number of reasons but it’s time to ACTUALLY be here much more consistently. Part of my personal and professional development, I believe, must include more reading. It’s not only good for the soul, but I would like to think it will improve my writing abilities. This is much of why I began this blog in the first place. It turns out there was a book club for adults formed in the local library out here and I jumped at the chance. It meant meeting the above mentioned wishes but also for me to have another social outlet.

With that – shall we begin? I’m not sure I want this particular entry to be a review as much as I want to discuss the subject matter. This book provoked such a strong emotional response from me that I felt it warranted an entry about it. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been told, but I was, that this book focuses on the right to die. Maybe it should be the right to CHOOSE to die. So, knowing that in advance perhaps changed my perspective immediately. We shall never know.

Choosing to die, suicide, is a touchy topic for obvious reasons. From my perspective, it sure seems that it’s not even necessary to have a religious background to have a strong dislike or opposition to that choice. Then there are those who may be on the fence or don’t have quite a strong conviction one way or the other. Then there’s the last group, those who have a strong conviction in agreement with it. To be perfectly frank, I’m in the latter group. Part of that may stem from the fact that I can’t, even refuse, to see suicide as a selfish act. Suicide, in my opinion, is frequently not about being selfish but out of desperation, out of the utter lack of hope and at times, about the presumed thought that death will be better for everyone else (that would, at least in the eyes of the person wishing to die, make it unselfish). A deep rooted feeling of being unloved or unwanted or incapable of some level of success could make many people have dire thoughts. It’s hard to imagine that person doing anything out of selfishness but just complete sadness that fortunately most won’t ever feel. I’ve always told myself that I’m glad I’ve never reached that level of despair because then I might consider suicide and how dreadful that must be; what an awful lonely place to be and to feel.

I want to be clear that simply because I believe an individual should be allowed, and has the right to choose to die, doesn’t mean that if in a situation, I wouldn’t first try and keep that person alive. I don’t go around cheering people on or endorsing it exactly. I simply feel that if the circumstances are such, then a person shouldn’t be shamed or made to feel guilty for wanting to end their life. I do happen to have a background in Catholicism and I have my faith. But I feel that the only being that can judge any of us is God and God alone. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, of course, but ultimately, only He can decide what is really right or wrong. No human can as all of us have made our fair share of mistakes.

For me, this book “Me Before You” really explores how the circle of people around the one who wants to die are impacted. Everyone has a little bit different perspective and that’s one of the beauties of the book is that the author injects a chapter here and there with someone else’s perspective of what’s happening and that helps keep the entire situation real (part of why I loved the book). It also thoroughly examines what it means to be selfish. There are many different ways of being selfish in this book, at least I thought so.

I won’t go into all the details but it really occurred to me how selfish it was for all the characters to want to keep this man alive. Will, who’s a quadriplegic, is bound to a chair he can never get out of. As pointed out by the main protagonist, his limbs are of no use to him and yet are the source of much of his pain. He suffers from much emotional pain of being robbed his real life, as he may put it, but also watching people around him incapable of treating him like he’s any other human who just happens to be sitting permanently. Then there’s the physical pain, which is relentless.

Two years after a horrible accident that bound him to that chair, which creates a sort of claustrophobia, and making as much effort as he could muster, he was tired. His condition was only going to deteriorate and his condition would likely end up killing him via illness that he was totally susceptible to or some other accident that couldn’t be helped. Yes it’s tragic to say that he chose to give up. Giving up is something we’re told never to do and in most cases I’d agree. But this is extenuating circumstances. Isn’t it selfish of us to try and force someone to try and live, not only a less than stellar life, but one riddled with physical and emotional pain, with illness that could kill him at any time anyway for virtually the sole reason of us wanting that person to stay so we don’t have to deal with death? So that we don’t have to feel sorrow or grieve or even be angry? There’s the talk of it being immoral, perhaps so, but why is it moral to make a person live like that?

I couldn’t help but think of the Terry Schiavo case from several years ago (I forget how many now). I’m sorry to say but that poor woman wasn’t living. She only really survived due to machines and her condition never improved to a point where she could feed herself, go to the bathroom on her own, think in any real capacity. If she really improved to where she could, then why did she die a short time after the machines were turned off? It wasn’t right to keep her in that condition because her loved ones didn’t want to say goodbye, in my opinion. I’m not going to say I can blame them. I hate death, I hate goodbyes especially to people who are so near and dear to my heart. I certainly don’t welcome it but I also can’t bring myself to force someone to live if he or she really doesn’t want to live. We want people to live with dignity, to live it to the fullest, on their own terms, to follow certain rules and regulations. Why can’t they die with dignity? I couldn’t help but think of cancer patients once they pass away. Everyone frequently says they’re glad their loved one is no longer suffering or having certain troubles. Why is it different for certain disabilities or illnesses? To me, at the core, it’s the same principle.

courtesy/google images

courtesy/google images

Anyway, it was a really great book with the profound ability to stir some serious emotions in a person. I hear there will be a movie soon. We shall see how that turns out.

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