Whatever the Future Holds
by Heidi E. V. McCann
Green Heart Living Press

"Even in darkness, there’s always one ray of hope."

Author McCann recounts her years of love, determination, grief, and hope in this dynamic memoir that begins when, as a teenager, she met someone whose life would quickly intertwine with hers in ways she could never have imagined. Curtis was older than her, a popular, physically skilled, impulsive, and outgoing type, while she was rather shy and more analytical but, like him, an enthusiastic athlete. Charmed by his sturdy frame and ready smile, she spent most of the summer with him as the two practiced at becoming a real couple. He was not always faithful, but she learned to forgive, and the relationship persisted, leading to cohabitation after her high school completion and his college certification.

Then one day, Curtis confessed to feeling ill. He began to stumble, fall, and exhibit signs of physical weakness and lack of coordination. His mother then revealed that there were those in his family who had died of motor neuron diseases. Soon after, he received a diagnosis of familial ALS—amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The prognosis was grim, with no known cure and probable rapid, fatal deterioration. Though the couple vowed to fight it and even got married while he was suffering from the extremes of the disease, the conclusion could not be avoided, only postponed with various medications and equipment, including constant connection to a breathing machine. Thus began a monthly, daily, sometimes hourly, and minute-by-minute series of potent recollections of McCann’s devoted care and Curtis’ strong-minded struggle to stay with her, despite multiple indicators of impending, inevitable loss.

McCann's hearfelt memoir overflows with honesty and love, Although her widowhood in her mid-twenties could have seriously stymied her life’s progress, the author found small and sometimes spiritually based comforts after her companion of nearly ten years and husband of twenty-two days passed away. She had visions, was able to “talk” to him in ways that only she could grasp, and gradually transformed her grief into the ambitious creation of a fund for families experiencing the trials of ALS, spurred by Curtis’ wish for such a foundation. She also attained a master’s degree with an emphasis on writing, for which she has a clear gift as she shares the poignant saga of her husband’s increasing decline and the many ways that she discovered within herself to help and comfort him and herself.

The author candidly recalls how reaching out to friends through therapy groups and other means gave her solace, as did her time spent with the seemingly intuitive dog that she and Curtis had regarded as a “son.” Early in the book, she provides a colorful depiction of her sometimes foundering, youthful love affair with Curtis and how it came to provide a sense of true destiny. In later portions, she presents stirring views of the burden of young widowhood. Now in a second, long-standing marriage with children and a career in teaching, McCann still takes time to remember Curtis, offering this deftly constructed memory bank as an outreach to those grappling with the complexities of ALS, and especially to women facing or immersed in the process of grief, acceptance, and rebuilding.

A 2023 Eric Hoffer Book Award Grand Prize Short List book

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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