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Dying and Living on the Kansas Prairie: A…
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Dying and Living on the Kansas Prairie: A Diary

by Carol Brunner Rutledge

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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0700606491, Hardcover)

Between my home in Topeka on the eastern edge of the Flint Hills and Hope on the western side, there are 100 miles of prairie and sky. This tallgrass land has sheltered my people for generations. It has taunted us and calmed us, broken us and nurtured us, starved us and fed us. It is our span over birth, growth, and death. Death, which beckons now to my Mother.

So begins Carol Brunner Rutledge's diary of the three months preceding the death of her mother Alice, whose entire life was lived in the Flint Hills of Kansas. Like Terry Tempest Williams's Refuge, it unites a profound reverence for nature with a moving testament of a daughter's love for her dying mother.

With quiet eloquence Rutledge celebrates her mother's life and guides us on a journey from anguish and doubt through self-discovery and healing. In the tradition of earlier plainswomen, she fuses deeply personal emotions with universal themes tied to family, community, religion, and work--amidst the stark beauty of the Flint Hills.

Rutledge vividly describes the people and the seasons of the prairie, providing insight into how generations of tallgrass people have related to the land. She offers nostalgic memories of her childhood and family history, as well as reflections on the Kansas pioneer spirit and its special brand of humor.

Rutledge also records with excruciating honesty her frustration at the insensitivity of medical professionals who ignore her mother's strong spirit while continuing to labor over a body that no longer works. Rising above these false hopes, mother and daughter forge an even stronger bond as they come to understand that dying is a natural part of living.

On the road between Hope and home, between the callously impersonal world of high-tech medicine and the healing rhythms of nature, Rutledge meditates on the mysteries of death and finds refuge in the vast prairie landscape: Tonight on the prairie, as every time I go back and forth between the hospital and home, I am well aware I am just one small speck in the midst of the grasslands. I am not in charge of everything, and those things I am in charge of are quite insignificant. I cannot take my Mother's dying and make her well. I cannot fix it this time. How unbelievably comforting it is to be only one small part of this vast land and how safe to be a part of this mysterious happening which I don't have to control.

Throughout, the silent, powerful prairie provides solace and strength. By diary's end, at the end of her lonely travels back and forth across the prairielands, Rutledge and her mother have finally made peace with the inevitability of loss and accepted death on its own terms. Ultimately, her words remind us that in the end "love is all that matters."

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:10 -0400)

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