When Amy Bloom’s new book, In Love: A Memoir of Love and Loss, was hitting the shelves at bookstores nationwide, I had just finalized corrections on my memoir’s final formatted pages.

I had preordered Bloom’s book as soon as I became aware of it in January, but I had to wait until early March for my local bookstore to deliver it. I gulped it down without delay. Two things jumped out at me. First, Bloom writes beautifully, with an abundance of heart and clarity. And secondly, I am stunned by the similarities between her memoir and mine. Mine, Walking Him Home: Helping My Husband Die with Dignity, is being published on August 9, 2022, by She Writes Press, so you will have to wait a few more months to read it.

But before I point out all the similarities, let me give you the high-level summary of Bloom’s book.

Amy and Brian meet in midlife and fall in love, even though they are both in long-term relationships with other people. They “blow up” their existing relationships and marry, approximately three years after that first magic kiss. After a few years of wedded bliss, Amy starts to notice subtle changes in Brian, changes that ultimately result in a diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s. Brian is clear that he would rather die on his feet than face the “long goodbye,” and he asks for Amy’s help in ending his life. After researching the medical-aid-in-dying laws in the various jurisdictions of the US (all of which require people to have decisional capacity, and a dementia diagnosis automatically disqualifies the applicant), Amy looks outside the US for a country that will allow Brian to legally end his life. The only choice turns out to be Switzerland, and they begin the process of applying to Dignitas, a Swiss organization that allows qualifying individuals to end their lives with dignity. Brian’s application process is long, complicated and filled with stumbling blocks, but Amy works hard to overcome all the obstacles, and ultimately, they are successful.  The two borrow $30,000 to fly to Switzerland and pay the fee to Dignitas. Amy accompanies her husband to the Dignitas apartment where Brian professes his love and drinks the life-ending cocktail.

Okay, now here’s the high-level summary of my memoir:

Joanne and Alan meet in midlife and lust after each other until Alan’s marriage ends, at which point they start dating, and three years later, they marry. After several years of married bliss, Alan starts behaving oddly, including acting out his dreams while he’s sound asleep. His doctors are reluctant to give him a diagnosis because many neurological conditions look alike in the early stages, but it is clear that Alan has a debilitating illness. He progresses from using a cane, to a walker, to a wheelchair. When he’s 69, he finally gets a diagnosis: multiple system atrophy, a rare, fatal, neurodegenerative illness. Alan was delighted when Colorado voters approved medical aid in dying in 2016. He asks Joanne to help him figure out how to take advantage of the law to end his life with dignity. She helps Alan through all the steps of the application process. She can no longer take care of Alan at home, so he moves to a nursing home the same week he has his official interview with the team that will decide his fate. Joanne is stunned when they approve his request for medical aid in dying.  Alan holds on for a couple more months while Joanne tries to make his life as comfortable and joyful as she can. Finally, he tells Joanne he is “out of juice.” Alan wants to die at home, in his own bed, surrounded by people who love him, so Joanne makes his wishes come true. He drinks the life-ending drug, professes his love, falls into a coma and dies exactly how he wanted to.

I am not trying to be glib by offering these short summaries. Both memoirs are sprinkled with humor and doused with sadness, but the overwhelming feeling you come away with is of couples who loved each other deeply. The purpose of the summaries is to prepare you for the similarities:

Both are stories of beloved men who chose to end their lives with dignity, one in a US state where he met the requirements for medical in aid in dying, and one in Switzerland because he didn’t qualify according to US rules.

Both couples marry in midlife.

Both Brian and Alan were handsome, self-assured men, a little vain about their dark, thick hair, and both were loved by everybody they knew.

Both men could talk to anybody, and frequently did.

Both men were perfectly comfortable being married to someone smarter than they were.

Alan had four biological granddaughters and no biological grandsons. Brian had four borrowed granddaughters and no grandsons of any flavor. 

Both men were good at saying “Sorry I was such a knucklehead (Brian) or jerk (Alan)” after a fight.

The youngest brother of each man was named Paul, and in each family, Paul was the first of the siblings to die.

Both men asked their wives to help them find a legal way to die.

Both wives said yes when their husbands asked for their help

Both wives are writers (although I have never written a book before and Amy is a goddess in the literary world, so it seems like a stretch for me to say we are similar) and wrote memoirs about their experiences helping their husbands die.

Both wives meditate via gardening.

Both books end with the marriage vows the couples said at their weddings (although, ours seem quite pedestrian compared to Amy’s, which were so beautiful, I cried.)

Both men died in January 2020.

Memorial services for both men were held on February 8, 2020.

Do you find the similarities as striking as I do? I’d love to hear your thoughts on both books. 

When Alan was first diagnosed, I couldn’t find a single memoir about a married couple facing medical aid in dying. I’m delighted that soon there will be two memoirs available about a husband-and-wife team who tread this intentional end-of-life path bravely and with an abundance of love. May both books be useful to other couples searching for a hand to hold as they contemplate difficult choices.