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Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite
"Till death do us part." Such a well known phrase and one that most happily married couples don't think about until they get into their later years and health issues arise. Claire Verney, author of Notes of a Love Song: Day-to-Day with Parkinson's Disease, probably didn't give the phrase much thought at all when her husband, Michael, only 46, went to see a doctor because of stomach pain. What the doctor dismissed as insignificant was the beginning of Parkinson's Disease and 20 years of watching her beloved husband wither away. There was no turning back the clock; tons of medicines, good doctors, and hours of caregiving that nearly finished Claire off didn't slow down the progress of the disease. But Claire stayed by her husband's side, sometimes angry at fate, sometimes impatient with Michael, and often disgusted with herself for not being stronger for her spouse. And yet, she was super strong: Claire is a woman who took her marriage vows seriously and stood by her man in sickness and in health.
Notes of a Love Song is a detailed record, a day to day journal actually of all that transpired over those 20 years. Despite being nearly all narrative from Claire's point of view, it is very informative about all aspects of what happens when one has Parkinson's Disease. If one thinks that all there is to Parkinson's are the tremors of the head and hands, Notes of a Love Song will correct your perceptions. Quite frankly, I hope Parkinson's Disease is something I never have to worry about with my own husband. I'm not sure I would have Claire's strength.
But this memoir is more than just a comprehensive account of what to expect if someone you love is diagnosed with Parkinson's. It is also a love story. When toward the end of the book Michael is near death, Claire describes washing his body head to toe. As she recounts how she gently runs the wash-cloth down his arms, her words are those of a woman who did, indeed, love her man until death did them part. Hence the title of this book: Notes of a Love Song.