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Banged-Up Heart by Shirley Melis is an intimate and clear-eyed account of finding love late and losing it early - and of the strength it takes to fall madly in love a second time, be forced to relinquish that love too soon, and yet choose to love again. When her husband of 30 years dies suddenly, Shirley Melis is convinced she will never find another man like Joe. Then she meets John, a younger man who tells her during their first conversation that he has lived for many years with a rare but manageable cancer.
She is swept off her feet in a whirlwind courtship, and within months, made brave by the early death of a friend's husband, she asks him to marry her! What follows is a year-long odyssey of travel and a growing erotic and creative partnership - until a mysterious bump on John's forehead proves to be one of several tumors in his brain and spine. The nine months that follow are filled with a life-threatening infection, three brain surgeries, radiation, and chemotherapy. Two years and one week after their wedding, John dies at the age of 59.
More than just a love story or a memoir of mourning, Banged-Up Heart comes down solidly on the side of life. It takes you deep inside an ordinary woman, her deeply felt grief butting up against her desire for more than companionship: passion, sexual fulfillment, and self-realization. It bears eloquent witness to the wild trust it takes to fall madly in love and risk profound loss - a second time. Ultimately, it shows that it is possible to dance with a banged-up heart.
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Raw heartache, love and resilience
Banged up heart is not the type of book I would normally read, but I am so very glad that I did. It is an emotional and heartbreaking story about how Shirley lost her husband, Joe, just to fall into a whirlwind love and marriage with her subsequent husband, John. After they marry she discovers that he has serious health issues that center around the rare type of cancer he has. As his health continues to decline, the plans that they made for the future begin to slip away and they are forced with some difficult decisions.
This book was so deeply moving in so many ways. Shirley talks about the many issues and discussions that come about when your spouse is terminally ill. She masterfully illustrates her daily struggles from simply getting John to his appointments to getting him out of bed when he becomes to weak. There are so many things discussed in this book that I had never considered being an issue, but I am so glad that Shirley brought them to light in case I am ever in a similar situation. This is definitely not a “how to” type of book, but the various trials she encountered have really opened my eyes to how difficult end-of-life care can be without help (or even with help sometimes).
I was touched by the raw emotion present in this book as well. Shirley does a great job of explaining her emotions and what she is feeling throughout, and doesn’t miss a single detail even when describing the memory of the last time she saw John. It was heart-wrenching, at times, but just as healing. Shirley’s resilience after losing not one, but 2 husbands she loved and adored, gives me hope for healing from even the most painful losses.