Patricia Nugent shares some of her most intimate experiences and expresses the raw emotions of confusion, guilt, sadness, anger and hope in her book They Live On. It’s the story of the last 18 months of her parents’ lives as seen through a daughter’s eyes in the form of 300 vignettes.
Nugent writes about her mother talking to the doctor when they put her father in the nursing home. She recalls being told that it’s time to call hospice for her mother and she remembers the MRI that determined there was cancer.
`They are various experiences that hit you really hard as you’re going through this process,` said Nugent, of Saratoga Springs.
The book wasn’t originally meant to be published. It started out as Nugent’s personal journal that she was writing just for herself.
`It was a very challenging time for me and I needed a way to process what was happening in my life all of a sudden,` said Nugent.
After her parents passed, her friends started carefully asking if they could read what she’d written.
`They became curious about it and when I let them read it, they said ‘you need to share this. This is much more universal than your story,’` said Nugent.
She said she started thinking about how there were no books for her to lean on when she was dealing with her terminally ill parents and the grief that ensued. She thought about how comforting it might have been to read about someone else in a similar situation.
`I came to realize when I was going through the experience that there weren’t many resources out there to support me. Our culture doesn’t really understand the depth of adult parental loss,` said Nugent. `There’s a lot out there supporting young children when their parents die and that’s certainly very tragic, but there’s not a lot of help for adults coping with losing their parents.`
`They Live On` now fills that void, said Nugent, in a powerful way she never imagined it would.
`I’m getting so many emails, notes and phone calls that tell me this book made a huge difference for them. I think the greatest testimony is the repeat purchases; someone who bought one book and comes back and buys four more because they want to give it to a sister, cousin, parents,` said Nugent. `A friend wrote me a note that said ‘the time is right and the need is great,’ and I think that really does sum it up.`
Many baby boomers are going through the very process she did, right now. If she can help them make sense of the grief and healing process, even in a small way, that’s what she hopes for.
She said her parents would have been proud of her.
`My parents were people who felt that if they could help, they would want to,` said Nugent. `It was hard for them to watch me go through this at the time and I believe that my parents would be gratified that other people might get some support from reading their story.`
Nugent isn’t just waiting for people to notice her book on the shelves and pick it up. She’s holding discussion groups once a month at Maple Wood Nursing Home in Ballston Spa where she reads from the book based on various themes and participants can describe their own experiences and how they related to what’s in `They Live On.` Her first group was around Christmas.
`There were about 10 people there and it becomes very obvious when we get together to talk about it, how similar the experiences are it’s the cycle of loss that is not linear, it’s circular, and we keep revolving through those,` said Nugent.
She hopes the discussion groups will help, whether participants are ready to talk or not.
`It takes a much longer time than I ever imagined it would to recover from losing your parents,` said Nugent.
The reaction is overwhelming, said Nugent, and the range of people it relates to and touches has been surprising.
`I didn’t originally think of it as a book elderly people might benefit from and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number of elderly people that have said I really helped to express their fears and their experience,` said Nugent.
She hasn’t had time to think about a follow-up book, but after hearing so many of her readers’ own stories, she thinks a compilation of those memories might make a good companion piece.
Nugent will hold an event called `Faith on a Respirator: The Struggle to Keep Faith Alive During Long Term Loss and Illness` at PNEC Church at 24 Circular St. in Saratoga Springs and an event called `For Better or Worse: An End-of-Life Love Story` at Borders at 395 Broadway in Saratoga Springs.
`They Live On` is available at Borders in Saratoga Springs, Corrina’s in Ballston Spa, Market Block Book in Troy and the Book House in Stuyvesant Plaza.
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