A thoughtful reflection on life, and death.
Dying: A Memoir by Cory Taylor
‘The fact that I was dying now was sad, but not tragic. I had lived a full life.’
At the age of sixty, Cory Taylor was dying of a melanoma-related brain cancer. Her cancer could no longer be treated, and death was inevitable. And so, she wrote this book. I imagine that every person who reads it comes away with something slightly different. For me, it’s Cory Taylor’s reflections on her life, and her observations about the deaths of her parents. So many echoes, too, in her thoughts about being able to choose the circumstances of her death. I’ve lost two friends in as many years, two friends who suffered because preserving life was, apparently, more important than a comfortable death.
The book is full of clear and careful reflection. At one stage, writing about the unexpected death of a friend who was helping her, Cory writes:
‘A sudden death cuts out all of the ghastly preliminaries, but I imagine it leaves behind a terrible regret for all the things left permanently unspoken. A slow death, like mine, has that one advantage. You have a lot of time to talk, to tell people how you feel, to try to make sense of the whole thing, of the life that is coming to a close, both for yourself and those who remain.’
She writes of acceptance, of her ambition to be a writer. Of having no regrets, and of worrying about death:
‘It is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and I will be glad when it’s over.’
‘My doctor has promised to honour my wishes, but I can’t help worrying. I haven’t died before, so I sometimes get a bad case of beginner’s nerves, but they soon pass.’
It’s a beautifully written book. Dying is a personal journey which, at some stage, each of us will make. It’s a book on a topic we need to discuss more openly: death is inevitable, but the circumstances of death vary. People should not suffer when suffering can be avoided.
Right at the end of the book, Cory Taylor writes:
‘I’ve come to the edge of words now, to the place where they falter and strain in the face of dying’s terrifying finality.’
I can only hope that Cory Taylor did not suffer.
Cory Taylor died on 5 July 2016, a couple of months after this book was published. She was aged 61. I had previously read ‘My Beautiful Enemy’, and I’ve added ‘Me and Mr Booker’ to my reading list.