Author Amy Bloom’s home office overlooks a lovely section of Long Island Sound, with rocky islands in the distance, boats drifting by, and sunlight playing off the harbor. When the time comes to put pen to paper, she has a magnificent view from her window.
The great view doesn’t make the work any easier. “The job is, you’ve got to go to the office. You have to sit in the chair. You’ve got to make the effort. These things don’t sprout by themselves. It’s not magic and it’s not the muse. The muse shows up when she will but my job is to be in the office to greet her there,” says Bloom, Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing.
That discipline, cultivated over eight books and many television pilot scripts, helped Bloom in the creation of her recent book, In Love: A Memoir of Love and Loss, a painful and beautiful exploration of her life with her husband Brian Ameche. Publisher’s Weekly described the book as “… a stunning portrayal of how love can reveal itself in life’s most difficult moments.”
Ameche was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in 2019 and decided that the “long goodbye” associated with the illness was not something he wanted to experience. He asked Bloom to help him find a way to pass with dignity and peace. “I’d rather die on my feet than live on my knees,” Ameche told her. The couple traveled to Dignitas, a nonprofit organization in Zurich, Switzerland, that supports assisted suicide, where Ameche painlessly ended his own life in January 2020.
“As with all great books about dying, In Love: A Memoir of Love and Loss does not terrorize with grim statistics and forewarnings but with rather destigmatizes euthanasia and enriches the reader’s life with urgency and gratitude,” wrote Simon Van Booy in his Washington Post review.
As many people do when caring for a sick loved one, Bloom kept notes – what medications Ameche needed to take, the date of his next appointment, the logistics and minutiae of his care. Those notes, many of which were recorded in blue notebooks, became a basis from which Bloom could begin her work. Writing in the early quiet of the pandemic helped clarify Bloom’s thoughts about Ameche’s final days. Still, the process was hard. “It turns out you can cry and type at the same time,” Bloom said.
Ameche had urged Bloom to tell his story, hoping that it would lift the silence surrounding how we die. “I’ve received a tremendous amount of mail from people who have taken care of their spouses to people who have gone to Dignitas and from people who were unable to end their lives comfortably and peacefully but really wanted to,” Bloom said. “It has been a remarkable outpouring from people who are deeply concerned with this issue.”
Bloom is currently doing publicity for the book and teaching a writing course at the Shapiro Writing Center, getting a sense of joy and energy from her students. She is trying to live the lessons she hopes to impart. “There are lots of things you learn from these kinds of difficult processes but one of them, for me, is to be grateful, to make the most of the moment. That is really such an important part of how one lives. To also have the recognition that tomorrow is not promised to anyone,” Bloom said.
All one can do is to truly try to be present, Bloom believes. “Now, when I look at the harbor. I really look at the harbor,” she said.
For more information about Bloom’s work, visit her website.