The irony of Walking Through Twilight is not lost on its author. Douglas Groothuis is a philosopher who has often taught and written on suffering. Here he offers a lament about the suffering he and his wife have been going through over many years as she slowly, so agonizingly slowly, deteriorates from a rare form of dementia.
has given us all a great gift. He shows us how to mourn when the world is not as it should be. In his painfully honest memoire he rages against the impersonal medical system he faces yet does so with compassion for both the patients and the caretakers in the system. He grieves for the once brilliant, witty woman who is on a one-way journey to a land without the words she loved so much. He faces his temptation to hate God full on.
The book also addresses topics not normally found in books on grief. He meditates on the ethics of “lying” to his wife when he must “simplify” the truth so that it is at a level she can deal with. He has a chapter on how much he should or shouldn’t, does and doesn’t share about his personal situation in the classroom. Likewise he considers what is appropriate in our online-saturated world.
Toward the end Groothuis includes an important chapter on escaping into meaning. Like all who have caregiving thrust on them, he needs ways to rest, recoup, reenergize for the load he must carry. He escapes into what he loves most, making meaning via his work as a philosopher, even as he contemplates is inability to halt the changes around him. Painting and music have been other avenues into meaning that he’s employed.
He says, “I live in the tension between ‘the Escape of the Prisoner’ and ‘the Flight of the Deserter.’ I can flip back and forth like a twitchy toggle switch. . . . In my better moments I try to smelt meaning from suffering.” (140-41).
I have known the author and his wife for years, personally and professionally. I have read many of their books which have done so much good for thousands over the years. To me, this is clearly the best writing he has ever done.
While he masterfully expresses a sense of loss, he summarizes his own aspirations for the book well. “Throughout this doleful and, I hope, hopeful book, I have lamented much over all the losses that have assailed Becky and me. Nevertheless, my reflections have an aim: to live well with suffering in light of reality in God’s world” (53). This, I think, is what he actually achieves.