After a family movie night, the author's husband confided that he had been having a mild but persistent "ping" of abdominal pain. By Monday, they learned he had inoperable pancreatic cancer, and he had become a full-time patient.
The Company of Ghosts is a lyrical story about memories gathering and reassembling as a family is forced to navigate a sometimes puzzling and cruel healthcare system and is reconfigured by loss. It is also a meditation about how we carry with us our experiences with those who--for better and very much worse--cross our paths in a crisis. Compassionate strangers, callous physicians, and infuriating bureaucrats. New and lifelong friends. Forebears we have known only through artwork or cryptic asides. Empathic rescue beagles.
It is also a love letter to a husband and children and friends, weaving together the stories we steward about those we never completely lose. A last taste of lemon, a fly ball, or a penny flattened on railroad tracks, can capture decades of friendship and improbable hope, and become a portal to our pasts and our children's hoped-for futures.
Awife recalls her beloved husband’s illness and mourns his loss in this memoir.
New England–based legal writer and novelist Glennon recounts enjoying an idyllic family life with her husband, Jim, and their closely spaced-out sons and daughters, many of whom had begun to leave the nest for adult futures. But on an early summer evening in 2010, after a preplanned family movie night, Jim revealed crushing news. As a physician, Jim was well aware of the power of honesty and transparency when it came to matters of health and wellness. His admittance to feeling twinges of mysterious abdominal pain led to an ultrasound “oddity” and a metastatic pancreatic cancer diagnosis that devastated the family. Known for her worrisome ability to “catastrophize,” Glennon shares her feelings of hopelessness and concern for her optimistic spouse, a casual photographer in his spare time who had lived a blissfully healthy life. She also felt an immediacy in ensuring Jim had everything he needed both materially and emotionally through hospice care as his health deteriorated. She reflects on their 26 years of marriage fondly, from their first anniversary spent in a cramped Lower Beacon Hill apartment in Boston to the joyous, eventful raising of their children. His death in 2011 was marked by frustrating experiences with indifferent health care workers, which puts an even more human face on the author’s ordeal. Glennon’s experiences are limned in a nuanced, delicate prose that fits perfectly in a poignant story about navigating the intricate, emotional folds of a family’s struggle to process terminal illness and the selfless beauty and release of palliative care. Unbearably melancholic as the situation warranted, Glennon felt herself not only cherishing every second and passing season with her dying husband, but also, as a deeply grieving wife, never taking a single moment for granted: “I had never watched sunrises and sunsets so easily within my reach as I did during my husband’s illness, when the fear of missing a waking moment with him, even as he still slept, seemed overwhelming.” This is a searingly candid, potent story about unexpected illness, loss, and what it truly means to be human.
A powerful, heart-wrenching cancer chronicle of enduring love and compassionate care.