Blogging death, and searching for meaning in a painful decline

By Jim Swearingen
The National Book Review

Kramer_We coverWhen Bruce Kramer, a Minnesota professor of education, was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) – or Lou Gehrig’s disease – in 2010, his world exploded.  He knew what the diagnosis meant: progressive bodily atrophy, from a disease whose causes are little understood and that has no known cure.

Kramer began writing a blog to capture the agony of his physical deterioration and his struggle to hold onto the splintered pieces of his life.  He described his disease as “death by a thousand paper cuts,” and it was an apt image: ALS was making changes that, day by day, could be all but imperceptible – but the overall effect of these small setbacks would be cataclysmic.  At the same time, there was something that posed an even more immediate threat: unchecked anger and resentment, which could poison the time he had left to relish his life and loves.

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