Imphal Review of Arts and Politics


A Palliative Care Doctor Tells Her Story to Remind the World of the Vital Importance of Human Connection

Book Title: Dear Life: A Doctor’s Story of Love and Loss by Rachel Clarke

Published by: Little Brown UK

Genre: Non Fiction



Book summary


From the Sunday Times bestselling author of Your Life in My Hands comes this vibrant, tender and deeply personal memoir that finds light and love in the darkest of places.

As a specialist in palliative medicine, Dr Rachel Clarke chooses to inhabit a place many people would find too tragic to contemplate. Every day she tries to bring care and comfort to those reaching the end of their lives and to help make dying more bearable. Rachel’s training was put to the test in 2017 when her beloved GP father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She learned that nothing – even the best palliative care – can sugar-coat the pain of losing someone you love.

And yet, she argues, in a hospice there is more of what matters in life – more love, more strength, more kindness, more joy, more tenderness, more grace, more compassion – than you could ever imagine. For if there is a difference between people who know they are dying and the rest of us, it is simply this: that the terminally ill know their time is running out, while we live as though we have all the time in the world.

Dear Life is a book about the vital importance of human connection, by the doctor we would all want by our sides at a time of crisis. It is a love letter – to a father, to a profession, to life itself.


About the author:


Rachel Clarke is an English physician specializing in palliative care for the National Health Service. She is an author, a former journalist and an activist.


My Review:


This is a book that will touch you in the deepest way possible. Rachel Clarke, a former journalist takes to studying medicine and through her interactions with the people she comes into contact, makes us pause and think of what it is that a person wants most when he/she is sick and ailing. Peppered with personal anecdotes that tell us part of her life journey, ‘Dear Life’ not only gives us a peek into the time that leads her to becoming a doctor but also personal insights into her experience of being a doctor, care giver and daughter. The last part that captures her experiences as a daughter and medical person is drawn from her most intimate experience of caring for her father, a doctor himself who was diagnosed with cancer.

Clarke writes with compassion and empathy yes, but also gives much of herself: all her doubts and insecurities when she engages with the people in her care, her learnings and the due respect she has for the people around her: her colleagues and the patients and their families.

She makes a compelling point about the meaning of life and its purpose when faced with the inevitable that in the end, it looks like nothing: to be alive in the moment, to draw a smile, to feel the moment. Making a strong call for empathy, she makes readers informed about how people who come in as patients lose control over their bodies when doctors, medicines and medical equipment take over, treating them as just a physical body shorn of emotions and insecurities. The anecdotes and insights on palliative care and how medical personnel can make a difference in the last moments of people and their loved ones will make you teary eyed for sure but also is deeply informative for mostly, we end up subjecting those we love to what we think is the best.

Personally, I cared for my father for two years when I was just in my early 20s and it has taken me a long time to realize that those two years have affected me in so many ways that I am still unraveling. How I wish, such a book was around to give me courage and some sound knowledge. Many sections left me weeping but never despondent and therein lies the beauty of this book: that it takes you to the most intimate and scary notions about illness, dying and grieving but that it also gives profound insights and hope. This is one book that lay people and those in the medical sector should surely read: there is much of humanity we all need to recognize in ourselves and others after all!

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