On Her Own Terms: Poems about Memory Loss and Living Life to the Fullest
Being a caretaker of an elderly person is a challenge in itself. In Carolyn Gammon’s On Her Own Terms, she miraculously brings hope to an equally emotionally taxing yet fulfilling responsibility: caring for a family member with memory loss. She balances these delicate topics of health and death with “Gammon humour,” and the poems act as a portal to different moments of vulnerability and clarity, from declaring herself a good daughter, an orphaned mother, until bearing a soft yet painful truth, “mothers don’t last forever.”
This collection is by no means entirely melancholy. We revisit Gammon’s joys, as if we were invited into the family, laughing alongside them. We meet the youth of her family, the ones who will carry on her mother’s legacy, and eventually, her own legacy. The language with which Gammon writes is accessible to all folks, whether new or avid readers of poetry. And it is the straightforward nature of her poetry that might deter veteran readers of poetry.
Though this is primarily a book of poetry, there are two short essays, the last of which is the epilogue. With the book’s close, Gammon asks us to heed this call to action and empathy: we cannot abandon those with memory loss. And with our compassion and love, their memories, within us and of us, live on.
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