Heidi-Marie's Reviews > The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby
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's review
Jul 16, 2008

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bookshelves: biography, inspirational, nonfiction, adult
Recommended for: everyone
Read in July, 2008

When Evelyn taught the FHE lesson of Melinda's accident and how we could communicate with her, she recommended that each of us read this book. I was finally able to get a hold of a copy, but I was already in the middle of quite a few other books. (When am I not?) It is a very fast read and he is a good writer. I especially loved the "Count of Monte Cristo" reference to Grandpapa Noirtier. I always loved his and Valentine's relationship. And yet in the last 6 months, I never made the connection of him and Melinda.

There were some things I hadn't expected in the book. I had thought it would all be about what life was like after his stroke and eventual leading to his suffering from Locked-in Syndrome. I guess, in a way, it is. He has plenty of time to think now, and he often reflects on his past. Various incidents from his past are related, and all somehow tie in to what he is going through at the time of writing the book. I did not always catch the tie-ins. And sometimes I didn't want to know about that part of his life.

Yet that was what was important to him now. Reliving his life one memory at a time. That is the big difference between him and Melinda. He was 43 at the time of his accident. He'd had quite a few experiences, especially considering he had been a world traveler and pretty "high up" on the success scale. Melinda was 17. Life hadn't even really begun for her before she was left with just a shadow of an existence.

Because I have become better friends with Melinda and can communicate quite easily with her, I connected to parts of this book that others without that personal experience might not be able to. It also helped me get a glimpse of perhaps what Melinda is thinking, or just going through. On my visits, I don't spend time asking "What's it like?" We talk about books and movies, things we did in high school, guys, our futures. I brush and fix her hair. Cut her nails. Give her Satin Hands massages. If she feels anywhere close to Bauby's feelings, then I believe these little things are very special to her. That perhaps she is reaching back in so many ways that I still cannot see. No one can.

I am ashamed that I ever pity myself for anything. I, too, may not be married. But I have had a serious relationship. I have had friendships. I have been on dates. I know what it is to love someone and, even though it is not returned, I have the most special relationship there. But what is more, I have more of a hope than she does. And it is so painful to always know that, but pretend I don't see that when I'm with her.

I would recommend the book to anyone, at least just to get an idea of what kind of a world these people are in. And to always be grateful for what we have. And what we have been blessed with. But not to forget what they have. Perhaps not seen with Bauby. But I know because of her accident, Melinda has had lots of time to study the scriptures, and the hymns of the Church. She knows a lot. I think her memory has increased, and it's all in there. And her testimony is definitely there. While yes you cannot help pity her, you must always remember to rejoice with her in the little things. And let her live as much of the kind of life you do so she doesn't feel like Bauby did at times.

One thing not mentioned in this book, is that Bauby died two months after the publication of his book--not even 2 years after his stroke. A person in a condition like his is not able to fight illnesses the way the rest of us can. And the whole time I read this book, I could not help wonder how long Melinda has. I hope for her to heal. I hope for her body to get back in order. But Bauby even saidof Locked-in Syndrome, "All that is known is that if the nervous system makes up its mind to start working again, it does so at the speed of a hair growing from the base of the brain. So it is likely that several years will go by before I can expect to wiggle my toes."

I am not trying to sound pessimistic of Melinda's case. She has been blessed to live for 8 years in her condition. Who knows how many more years she will be blessed with. But the blessing is really for us. Those of us who are blessed to meet her in this life. To learn lessons we could never have imagined. To gain so much from her that will forever be precious and life-changing. At least, that's how it is for me.
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10/11/2016 marked as: read

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