Dance Me to the End
Ten Months and Ten Days with ALS
About the Book
A profoundly honest and intensely personal story of a woman who cares for her husband after the devastating terminal diagnosis of ALS.
Marty, age 57, was given a preliminary diagnosis of ALS by his family doctor. Seven weeks later, the diagnosis was confirmed by a neurologist. Ten months and ten days later, Marty passed away.
From day one, Alison, Marty’s spouse of over twenty-five years, kept a journal as a way to navigate the overwhelming state of her mind and soul. Soon the rawness of her words harmonized to tell the story of Marty’s diagnosis, illness, and decline. Her journal became a chronicle of caregiving as well as an emotional exploration of the tensions between the intuitive and the pragmatic, the logical and illogical, and the all-consuming demands of being both spouse and nurse. Divided into short pieces, some of which reads as free verse, Alison’s words are at times profoundly intense and painfully private.
The composition of the intricate notes of a life in its final movements includes another stanza of the journal that became Dance Me to the End: the guiding of children grappling with the imminent loss of a parent, and the shifting roles of family, friends, and community—all of which add their own complex rhythms.
Dance Me to the End is an evocative memoir about the emotional impact of witnessing a loved one suffer from a neurological, degenerative, and terminal disease. This is a detailed account of grief, shock and pain coexisting with the levity, laughter and love shared with her husband and sons in those final months of Marty’s life.
“This lyrical debut . . . captures life as a series of snapshots, as a couple grows simultaneously closer together and further apart in the wake of a sudden life change . . . A mesmerizing memoir by a talented writer on coming to terms with the unexpected.” —Library Journal
“An achingly painful memoir . . . told with honesty and grace.” —Toronto Star
“A raw, elegant, and beautiful masterclass on love, loss, marriage, and grief from an unflinching storyteller. Brimming with poetic intensity and personal wisdom, Acheson’s memoir will move you to tears.” —Lindsay Wong, author of The Woo Woo
“This elegant memoir bears precise and intimate witness to the experience of caring for a loved one with a terminal disease. It examines the rhythms of marital love—how care flourishes and frays, retracts and rallies—under the most difficult of situations. Alison Acheson has gifted us a book with a genuinely human and complex heart.” —Kyo Maclear, author of Birds Art Life
“Dance Me to the End recounts one wife’s attempt to fulfil her vow to love ‘in sickness and in health,’ yet also to love and care for herself under the self-sacrificing demands of ALS. Acheson unflinchingly explores the nuanced and complicated emotions of the caregiver, the physical toll of caring, as well as the quotidian kindnesses and cruelties of health professionals and well-meaning strangers and friends. Fierce and tender, funny and utterly wrenching, this is as intimate a portrait of a marriage as I have ever read.” —Caroline Adderson, author of Ellen in Pieces and A History of Forgetting
“Powerful, honest, eloquent, compelling, at times humorous and sometimes sad. A story for anyone who has lost a loved one through death or is caring for someone who is dying. We have no rehearsal for this final journey and it is easy to find yourself adrift. Acheson’s writing is evocative, her words weave a story of the importance of connection and unconditional love. I laughed, I cried, but I gained a deep sense of peace from her words. Dance Me To The End is affirming and relatable.” —Cathy Converse, author of Against the Current and Following the Curve of Time