‘Timely, lyrical, tough, accurate, and ultimately not (too) depressing. Or as my aunts used to say, Roll up your sleeves.’—Margaret Atwood
Be With: Letters to a Caregiver is what its straightforward title promises: four letters to a long-term dementia caregiver, drawing on the author’s own years of caring for his mother Mary through the stages of moderate, severe, very severe, and late stage Alzheimer’s.
In this moving, deeply humane and surprisingly uplifting book, poet Mike Barnes shows a side of dementia that is almost entirely missing from public discussions of their condition:
‘All people with dementia, and some of them strikingly, show depths of sensitive awareness, resilience rising to heroism, and a capacity for joyful relatedness.’
Designed for harried caregivers but relevant and deeply important for us all, it is at once a source of clarity and solace, and also tells a compelling personal story. Be With balances candour about the devastations of dementia with insights into its paradoxical and indeed often uncanny enhancements of life, the ways in which it sometimes calls forth capacities long buried by the defences of full cognition.
Fiercely alive, marked by a sharp, unerring eye for detail and a wonderful way with metaphors, Be With encourages us to focus on fellowship and accurate witness: to simply be with who, and what, is actually before us.