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