To my surprise and pleasure, Autumn’s Grace is still attracting readers.
Last November, when I was invited to do a reading at The Tamahaac Club in Ancaster, my first thought was, “Yikes! What will I say?” The book was published in 2013; the last time I read it was when I had proofed the galleys. What to do? The best readings I’ve attended have been conversations, so I decided to do a work-around modelled on one of my favourite podcasts: Writers and Company. Since I’m not yet on Eleanor Wachtel’s radar, I asked a friend and fellow writer, Janet Turpin-Myers, to interview me, and that meant we both had to re-read the book! The event was re-scheduled at least once over the winter because of COVID concerns; we finally met on June 2nd, 2022.
It’s always a privilege to meet with readers. I’ve come to believe that anyone who picks up Autumn’s Grace is courageous. It’s an engaging and entertaining read, but it’s also challenging. Medical-surgical procedures and palliative care are not on most individuals’ must-read lists. However, anyone who has supported someone they love through diagnostic processes or provided care and support at the end-of-life is courageous. And these people appear to be my readers. They want validation that their experience was not unique; they want confirmation that the gaps they experienced were not personal, and they want assurance that their conflicted feelings were normal. As a writer, I derive enormous satisfaction when I hear readers say they felt relieved that someone finally understood their experience. For me, it means that I managed to touch upon some universal truths.
The questions and comments during the session and the post-event chats reminded me that the palliative care system is in need of repair. Serious work needs to be done. It begins with the education of our future clinicians; it means writing health policy to support integrated care; it means re-allocating funds to provide that care and to support the development of expert clinical practitioners. It also means making more hospice beds available. I’m always distressed to hear when a patient has died within twenty-four hours of being admitted into hospice.
Patients, their families and the clinicians who provide the care all deserve a system that can answer yes to these questions:
- Is the care safe?
- Is the care effective?
- Is the care patient-centred?
- Is the care timely?
- Is the care efficient?
- Is the care equitable?
Nine years after the publication of Autumn’s Grace, I cannot answer ‘yes’ to even half of these questions.
When I started to write in 2003, I hoped that the novel would lead to the development of better policies, more funding and best practices. It hasn’t happened yet. So I’ve revised my hope, and it’s this: that readers begin talking with family and friends about palliative care and their dreams for better end-of-life support. As these conversations multiply, a ground swell of questions will arise, and families will begin to say to each other, to their providers, and to politicians, “We must do better.” And they will expect better. That’s how change happens.
As Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
If you’d like to be part of that ground swell, here’s where you can obtain a copy of the novel: Where to Find Autumn’s Grace – Bonnie Lendrum
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Congratulations! Well done. It is a while since I read it, of course, but I have lent it to a few people who were interested for one reason or another. It is good for people to learn that they are not alone with the experiences they’re having.
I was recently at the Teresa Dellar Palliative Care Residence (used to be the West Island PCR and had 9 rooms). They had a floor in a seniors’ residence around the corner, but last year opened another 14 rooms. Rose de Angelis was the DoN but has gone to St. Raphael’s in NDG. The Jean Cameron Foundation gave funding annually to 9 PCUs on the island but we self-destructed a few years ago and give a bundle to the TDPCR and two NOVA home care programs. The TDPCR has a Jean Cameron day each year to honour her and one of the volunteers gets an award so the former board is invited to the tea party and this year we had a tour of the new wing. Have a look at the website and video – it really is a beautiful place to live until you die and I believe the care is excellent. We need many, many more such places and palliative home care, but it is good to see. Rose told me several years ago I couldn’t plan on going there because I don’t live on the West Island! They do have pretty extensive outreach programs to help other facilities learn and develop. Rose was doing end-of-life programs for nursing homes, but the funding ran out and no one has provided more. The PABs were delighted and ready learners. They were very much aware that people in nursing homes are usually there until the end of their lives, but no one had helped them deal with it before.
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Thank you, Carly. I’m so pleased that there are people and organizations who persist.
All the best,
Heartfelt congratulations, Bonnie. Touching readers and having the great privilege of hearing their responses in person —wow. That’s a gift to an author. And your book is timely given the degrading of our health care system over the last many years. I’m guessing it will never grow old, for good reasons and some of the unfortunate reasons you mention.
Thank you for taking the time to comment. And yes, I too fear that the novel is still timely.
All the best,
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