Until Further Notice, I Am Alive: A Lesson in How to Die with Grace

by J-Mirabelli

Tom Lubbock lost his ability to verbally communicate while writing this book but was able to express himself until the end while writing.

Every once in a while you read a book that completely changes the way you view the world. This is one of those books.

Until Further Notice: I am Alive, guides you through the twists and turns of a terminal condition. As a critic, writer and illustrator, author Tom Lubbock could describe a work of art that makes you look at it in a different way. In this book, he makes death his subject and takes you as close as possible to one of the last remaining questions of human existence.

In August 2008 Tom Lubbock suffered a seizure while he and his family were visiting with friends. An MRI scan showed a tumor in the left temporal lobe of his brain − the area responsible for speech and language.

An operation to remove the tumor revealed it was malignant, fast-growing and incurable. Noting that, “a fatal diagnosis is a cure for hypochondria”, he wrote in an email to friends: “Until further notice, I am alive.”

Early on between operations and chemotherapy, Lubbock wrote touching love letters to his wife, artist Marion Coutts and 18 month old son, Eugene, whom he feared might be too young to remember him. His letters and his journal were the genesis of the book.

In her introduction to Until Further Notice: I am Alive, Marion writes that the progression of the tumor and the journal that became Lubbock’s memoir happened over the same period. In his last year, “he willed words into being as they vanished again − Tom’s work was to keep his illness and his life in clear sight”.

As a writer, Lubbock’s instinct was always to wonder. Just before the end of his book, he remarks that language is slipping away fast, and yet that his thoughts when he looks at the world are “vast” and “limitless”. And characteristically he adds: “This is curious.”

On January 9, 2011, the tumor shutdown his brain and ended Tom Lubbock’s life. His book leaves us with a poignant lesson on how to die with grace.

Read more:

The moving final reflections of Tom Lubbock

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