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The Last Ten Days: Academia, Dementia, and the Choice to Die is a heartrending memoir of love, scholarship, dignity, courage, and the choices one is forced to make when given the devastating diagnosis of a terminal illness.
Spanning sixty years, this extraordinary book recounts the love story of Martha Risberg Brosio and her husband, Richard Brosio, Ph.D., a brilliant scholar and college professor whose communication skills dazzled all with whom he came in contact. Teenage sweethearts who went their separate ways after high school, Martha and Richard reconnected twenty-six years later over a friendly dinner that sparked into passionate love. They married in 1983, enjoying a vibrant life.
Then tragedy struck. In late 2013, Richard was diagnosed with Primary Progressive Aphasia, a type of dementia similar to Alzheimer’s that affects the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. The disease impacted Richard’s ability to communicate. Eventually, he would lose his verbal and processing skills. There was no cure. Determined to have a dignified death at the time and in the manner of his own choosing, Richard hastened his death two years after his diagnosis by voluntarily stopping eating and drinking, seeking only palliative and hospice care until the end.
Reminiscent of Still Alice, The Notebook, Tuesdays with Morrie, and When Breath Becomes Air, The Last Ten Days grabs the heartstrings and gives a mighty tug.
Prologue: In What Spirit Do You Come?
I first met Richard Brosio when we were graduate students at The University of Michigan in the late 1960s, and we collaborated over the next four decades around our mutual commitment to the crucial role of the social foundations of education in teacher preparation and to advocate for educational equity, justice for all, and true democracy as an antidote to capitalist hegemony. Richard brought to these efforts great intellectual prowess, focused energy, political insight, and personal courage. These same qualities are central to this powerful book by his wife Martha in which she describes Richard’s end-of-life choices in the face of illness that robbed him of his skillful powers of communication. The book also highlights his teaching and writing and their life together. It is a monumental love story. It is sad, yet inspirational. It is also joyful, as it celebrates his life and their time together. It causes me to admire both Richard and Martha all the more.Alan H. Jones, Ph.D., Publisher, Caddo Gap Press