Rebecca Brown •
The Gifts of the Body •
I cried on every page of this book. In stripped-down prose so precise it seems to be chiseled from rock, Brown writes of her experiences providing home health care to the terminally ill. The “gifts” are those of sweat, wholeness, tears, skin, hunger, mobility, death, speech, sight, hope, and mourning. Each chapter is both a heartbreak and a revelation.
Brown cuts through surface trappings to lay bare the intrinsic sacredness of life, rooted in humble, commonplace vignettes: a family’s running joke about maple syrup. A man who memorizes the names of the dead and dying in his apartment building. Cinnamon rolls from the center of the pan, hot and gooey. A salve whose only purpose is to ensure that the patient is touched regularly.
Confronted with physical limitation, pain, and mortality, Brown remains an unflinching, compassionate witness to the panoply of human response. Denial, aggression, and self-pity live alongside courage, dignity, and kindness. Through it all runs the immense sorrow that attends suffering and death, big and empty as a cathedral where your footsteps echo.