Surahbhi’s review of the freshly published book by Nadeen: “I am so glad to have read this book.”
I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about Relax, Trust, Let Go: The Art of Dying when I first started reading it.
I had known Melissa quite well – we both cleaned in Lao Tzu House for three years – but I hadn’t seen her for some time after that and it had been even longer since I’d spent any significant time with her…
But still the Melissa that Nadeen describes when he first met her and was in the whirlwind of romance was not at all the Melissa I knew. I felt that his experience of her was mostly romantic projection and therefore basically superficial.
But this is to be expected. After all it’s what we all usually do when we first meet someone.
Also the style of writing – while extremely clear and accurate – is a bit lacking in poetry for my taste, quite Germanic and straight rather than lyrical as I would usually be drawn to.
Nadeen is not a novelist but he does report the whole experience with a good sense of timeline and clarity, which is surprising given the intensity of the experience.
However, by the time I was halfway through I was unable to put it down, and soon found myself being so drawn in and deeply touched, often in tears. I was feeling again my own grieving for a different close friend’s passing and his journey with cancer, and so many others whom I have apparently ‘lost’ over the years.
By the time I reached the end I could see how the book has a wonderful rhythm.
The way that it begins with the newness of meeting someone, the amazement and the special times together, moving to the sudden change in situation as Melissa is diagnosed – like a piece of music changing key and tempo – and from then on into the chaos, the challenges, the constant letting go.
Nadeen gradually deepens in his responses as they become more raw and the reader gets to know him better, the qualities that he has to offer Melissa, his willingness to risk safety in order to give her as much of a life as possible, to hear the ocean, to feel the wind, and to go on feeling life’s beating heart. And then the change in rhythm as the situation becomes less known, less predictable as she moves towards the unknowable… and the completely chaotic realness of life lived in the presence of death.
Through the various stories he tells I could feel his sense of order being stripped away as he learned to respond to the unexpected – and even to respond with humour, letting go of the ideal way things should or could be, any sense of perfection or getting it right being destroyed. And the belief or assumption that we are this personality which a well-functioning brain keeps maintaining, shaken to the roots without anything to replace it.
And this is between the lines, not entirely written about directly – and this I love about his book… so that the reader is pulled in without knowing it’s happening.
The story begins as a reporting of what happened and ends as a deep mysterious happening that cannot entirely be put into words.
All of us, by the time we reach a certain age, have experienced death in some way or other.
It is the one thing we all have in common.
It is such a valuable thing to write about, to find a way to share and also to have the opportunity to read it, hear the details of the journey – and for this I really came to appreciate Nadeen’s accuracy, remembering the details, the various incidents, and giving them a framework.
His humility also stands out for me – in the conflicts that arose with other members of Melissa’s team of carers – and his honesty in not making it all ok but leaving it just to be as it was… imperfect, challenging, uncomfortable, without answers or solutions and not always as we would wish it to be.
I am so glad to have read this book.
It has left me with the flavour, the essence of Melissa, her sweetness, her laughter, her own brand of naughtiness that took one by surprise… so I am grateful to Nadeen for having written it.
But you don’t need to have known Melissa, or the Ashram (the Resort) in order to be touched by Relax, Trust, Let Go.
It is all our story in a way.
It is another glimpse into our raw humanity, what is inescapable, inevitable in one way or another and when it is written as Nadeen has done without wrapping it up in anything to make it more palatable, digestible or safe, then it is a story worth listening to, an experience that we are honoured to have the opportunity to share in.