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Diane Rehm On Death And Dying With Dignity

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Diane Rehm is a familiar voice to WFPL listeners, as the host of her daily show covering current events, arts and culture, and more.

Her new book, “On My Own,” is about the loss of her husband, John, and her activism for end-of-life choice. She’ll be in Louisville on Wednesday at the Kentucky Author Forum, where novelist Ann Patchett will interview her.

I spoke with Rehm about the book and how her life has changed since John's death.

Listen to the interview in the audio player above.

On confronting John's death:

"I began writing [the book] on the night that John was dying. It was the 10th day after he had decided to forego water and food and medication, and he was unconscious, I guess, or in a very, very deep sleep. And I was trying to sleep on two chairs beside his bed, with my little dog on my stomach, but I really couldn’t sleep.

"I had my iPad with me, so I got up and just began writing. Writing what I was seeing, writing what I was feeling, just writing. And, you know, it felt good to put words on paper, something concrete in the midst of this period of watching this poor man that I had loved and lived with for so many years simply fade away. But it was good to get words on paper."

On sparking a broader conversation about death and dying:

"I think the time has come for people to speak frankly about death and dying. This country has been mostly averse to talking openly about death, and I hope that my conversations and my appearances and this book will help them speak more openly.

"It’s been nearly two years [since John's death], and I must say, I think because John was in assisted living for almost a year and a half, though I was living alone, I certainly did not feel as though I was on my own. I could always rely on him and his judgment. Now since he is gone, I have had to learn to be strong on my own. I feel he is with me, helping me to use the strength I know I have and know I am building as life goes on. Life doesn’t simply stop."