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Relentless Goodbye

Grief and Love in the Shadow of Dementia

Relentless Goodbye: Grief and Love in the Shadow of Dementia. By Ginny Horst Burkholder. Herald Press (2012).

Book review by Christine Guth, ADNet Program Director

In Relentless Goodbye: Grief and Love in the Shadow of Dementia, Ginny Horst Burkholder tells a highly personal story of coming to terms, over many years, with her husband's dementia. Lewy body dementia gradually transforms him from beloved life partner to recipient of care, still much loved.
 
Readers who deal with cumulative losses, especially those due to disability of some kind, will find much to identify with in the author's gripping, searingly honest recounting of crushed expectations and day-by-day, dogged faithfulness to difficult commitments. As her husband's health spirals downward, Burkholder shares with readers the fruit of her determined effort to give her fears a voice, and the gradual empowerment this process gives her to claim her own value.
 
Relentless Goodbye is an expression of the author's faith, a faith planted firmly in this world of loss and grief, but connected to an enduring and renewing Presence. The tension between the two is reflected when she writes, "I seem to hold God's goodness in one hand and feelings of betrayal and abandonment in another" (99).

Faith and love are threads running throughout the book, surviving a relentless series of losses and sustaining the author through increasingly difficult circumstances. "I'm beginning to see that faith is not lack of questions, and love does not come without pain," she writes at the book's conclusion (263). Offering hope for all who confront life's hard limitations, she concludes, "I want to go forward knowing love and Presence even in the pain and loss. I hold on to hope that I will" (264).

 

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