Review: A Death of One's OwnEditorial Review - Kirkus Reviews
In the literature on death and disease, many books have characterized the stages of illness with fidelity and explored the philosophical/moral issues with acuity, but few have the lean power and eloquence which Gerda Lerner brings to this account of her husband Carl's sickness and death. . . and her survival. ""You can't expect me to lie here and wait till I go piece by piece,"" he said, opting for surgery when apprised of the brain lesion (astrocytoma) which would incur a slow paralysis. But surgery revealed a second, inoperable tumor, and Lerner resolved--against all professional advice--to care for him at home. ""Nobody teaches you how to tell the man you love he will die very soon and very horribly,"" she agonized. ""What it amounted to was to select one method of dying over another."" Her own past provided an extraordinary precedent--an aunt and uncle, WW II survivors whose mutual devotion was paradigmatic--and her convictions took shape. The Lerners were lucky in many ways: in addition to rallying children, supportive friends, and competent doctors, they had insurance moneys which enabled them to hire nurses without exhausting their savings. Even so, the emotional strain was colossal, the eighteen-month reality grim. And as his condition worsened inexorably, one question loomed unavoidably: ""When was the state when living became intolerable?"" Ultimately, he decided. He said his goodbyes and requested an end to medical interventions. Lerner's supple rendering of the ordeal is a testament to their marriage and the meaning of commitment, as intimate and irreducible as Lael Wertenbaker's Death of a Man.