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Losing Susan: Brain Disease, the Priest's Wife, and the God Who Gives and Takes Away

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The Story of Brain Disease and the Priest's Wife This is the story of Susan--a wife, mother, Christian believer, lover of children, writer of stories, and woman of extraordinary intellect. Susan was diagnosed with a brain tumor in her late thirties. Although it was successfully treated, the process led to her slow, unending decline. In this personal story of love and loss, V The Story of Brain Disease and the Priest's Wife This is the story of Susan--a wife, mother, Christian believer, lover of children, writer of stories, and woman of extraordinary intellect. Susan was diagnosed with a brain tumor in her late thirties. Although it was successfully treated, the process led to her slow, unending decline. In this personal story of love and loss, Victor Lee Austin shares how caring for his wife during her painful struggle with brain cancer and its aftereffects brought him face-to-face with his God and with his faith in unsettling ways. God gave Victor what his heart most desired--marriage to Susan--then God took away what he had given. Yet God never withdrew his presence. Weaving together autobiographical details and profound theological insights, this powerful narrative shows that we are called to turn to God in the face of suffering.


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The Story of Brain Disease and the Priest's Wife This is the story of Susan--a wife, mother, Christian believer, lover of children, writer of stories, and woman of extraordinary intellect. Susan was diagnosed with a brain tumor in her late thirties. Although it was successfully treated, the process led to her slow, unending decline. In this personal story of love and loss, V The Story of Brain Disease and the Priest's Wife This is the story of Susan--a wife, mother, Christian believer, lover of children, writer of stories, and woman of extraordinary intellect. Susan was diagnosed with a brain tumor in her late thirties. Although it was successfully treated, the process led to her slow, unending decline. In this personal story of love and loss, Victor Lee Austin shares how caring for his wife during her painful struggle with brain cancer and its aftereffects brought him face-to-face with his God and with his faith in unsettling ways. God gave Victor what his heart most desired--marriage to Susan--then God took away what he had given. Yet God never withdrew his presence. Weaving together autobiographical details and profound theological insights, this powerful narrative shows that we are called to turn to God in the face of suffering.

30 review for Losing Susan: Brain Disease, the Priest's Wife, and the God Who Gives and Takes Away

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Austin met his wife Susan at St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico and she was his constant companion – through seminary, the birth of two children, fostering crack babies, and his academic and Episcopal ministry positions – for nearly 40 years. Unusually for a cancer story, it wasn’t the beginning of the end when Susan was diagnosed with an astrocytoma brain tumor in 1993. Surgery was successful and she lived for another 19 years, but white-matter disease, a side effect of radiation, meant Austin met his wife Susan at St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico and she was his constant companion – through seminary, the birth of two children, fostering crack babies, and his academic and Episcopal ministry positions – for nearly 40 years. Unusually for a cancer story, it wasn’t the beginning of the end when Susan was diagnosed with an astrocytoma brain tumor in 1993. Surgery was successful and she lived for another 19 years, but white-matter disease, a side effect of radiation, meant that her brain function was continually diminishing. Especially towards the end of her life, she had frequent mini-seizures and fevers because her brain couldn’t regulate her body temperature. (Ironically, Susan’s father had also died of brain cancer, though a different type.) The book is in three long chapters: The Beginning, The Middle and The End. Within those sections are lots of short, titled vignettes, which made it perfect for reading in bits over the course of nearly a month. It gives a clear sense of Susan’s personality despite the progression of her illness, and of the challenges of being a caregiver while holding down a career. Austin found both humility and joy in helping his wife with daily hygiene. He remembers moments of grace but also times when he lost his temper or medical staff failed to help them effectively. I enjoyed the details of the human story of coping with suffering, but in overlaying a spiritual significance on it Austin lost me somewhat. The subtitle says it all, really: he believes that God blessed him with Susan, but also that He took her away. “God, who had given us so much, now gave us this evil.” While once this kind of language would have meant something to me, now it alienates me. I don’t understand how seeing God (assuming one exists) as the source of suffering and the origin of death is helpful. So the theological interludes, apart from a few metaphorical insights, were the least successful parts of the book for me. I valued it more as a straightforward caregiving and bereavement memoir. Favorite lines: “Our lives are not aimless stretches of eating and working and spending and sleeping. We are going somewhere. Lent shows us that the Christian life is a pilgrimage, an ongoing road on which we follow Jesus and carry our cross, which is also his cross.” (when he ended up in the hospital with heart attack-like symptoms) “I was keeping up with church, preaching and teaching, saying masses, doing the office work I had to do, staying on top of it all. Everything is just fine! I can handle this! And my body spoke. Not so, it said.”

  2. 5 out of 5

    James Korsmo

    This is quite a moving narrative. Much of it is surprisingly light-hearted, given that the core story is the death of his wife. But it is the joy that undergirds the narrative, and the thoughtful reflections on the mysterious, awful, faithful presence of God through it all, that anchors the story.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Tim Fountain

    A friend sent me this book because I'm a family caregiver, like the author. He tells the story of his wife's long terminal illness and his efforts to care for her with great love and humility in a pure sense of that word, by simply being objective and not forcing any judgments. Some questions are left hanging, and this book gets across how normal and necessary that is. No tidy answers to the big questions, but great insight into family care giving and a gift of compassionate companionship for tho A friend sent me this book because I'm a family caregiver, like the author. He tells the story of his wife's long terminal illness and his efforts to care for her with great love and humility in a pure sense of that word, by simply being objective and not forcing any judgments. Some questions are left hanging, and this book gets across how normal and necessary that is. No tidy answers to the big questions, but great insight into family care giving and a gift of compassionate companionship for those who are caregivers. As he writes, "Everyone reading this book - indeed, every human being - needs to know that when such a thing happens, we are not alone." This book is like having a fellow care giver right with you in your worst moments. Highly recommended for other family care givers and, I might add, for couples preparing to marry. This gets into the strong realities of the vows people make to each other.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Kidwell

    Losing Susan Brain Disease, the Priest's Wife, and the God Who Gives and Takes Away by Austin, Victor Lee Baker Academic & Brazos Press Brazos Press Christian Pub Date 21 Jun 2016 I was given a copy of Losing Susan through the publisher and their partnership with Netgalley in exchange for my honest review which is as follows: At nineteen Victor Lee met Susan the woman who would become his wife. She would also become a Chldren's writer. Susan dreamed of having a large family. After what could have been Losing Susan Brain Disease, the Priest's Wife, and the God Who Gives and Takes Away by Austin, Victor Lee Baker Academic & Brazos Press Brazos Press Christian Pub Date 21 Jun 2016 I was given a copy of Losing Susan through the publisher and their partnership with Netgalley in exchange for my honest review which is as follows: At nineteen Victor Lee met Susan the woman who would become his wife. She would also become a Chldren's writer. Susan dreamed of having a large family. After what could have been a miscarriage she gives birth to a Son. When there kids were nine and thirteen Susan was put on drugs, and Chemo treatments to help shrink the brain tumor they had found. By July.7,2011 nearly two decades after her initial diagnosis Susan's condition has progressed. And she continued to have her ups and downs until she was eventually hospitalize one final time and died on December.07.2012. I give Losing Susan five out of five stars Happy Reading.

  5. 4 out of 5

    E

    This is a moving account of an Anglican priest who slowly loses his wife to brain disease. I was struck by three things. One was the way in which he cared for his wife. He took his wedding vows very seriously, and lived them out day by day. Taking care of his wife was HARD, but he did not give up. He was not perfect, as he readily admits, but he never abandoned his wife. The second thing was his wife's attitude. She suffered with dignity, fortitude, and joy. She and her husband were both incredi This is a moving account of an Anglican priest who slowly loses his wife to brain disease. I was struck by three things. One was the way in which he cared for his wife. He took his wedding vows very seriously, and lived them out day by day. Taking care of his wife was HARD, but he did not give up. He was not perfect, as he readily admits, but he never abandoned his wife. The second thing was his wife's attitude. She suffered with dignity, fortitude, and joy. She and her husband were both incredible examples to all around them, and now to Austin's readers as well. Third is Austin's theological wrestling with the problem of suffering. He is not afraid to admit that suffering and pain come from the hand of God. They are not outside of his will. He does not show up after the fact to "turn them into something good"; they were part of his plan all along. I recommend this book to all.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Virginia Lloret

    Fr. Victor Austin takes us through his relationship with Susan from the time they met in Santa Fe, NM to her death many years later in New York City. The book takes us through the mundane, and sometimes not-so-pleasant, details of their everyday life and yet plumbs into deep theological mystery and truth. Losing Susan is a very worthwhile read especially for those dealing with the puzzling matter of why God allows suffering.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    A beautiful memoir, grounded in thoughtful, rock-solid theology, Fr. Austin recounts the love and loss of his beloved wife. Austin shares his struggles with God's role in suffering and death, and maintains that God is "strange and awful". You'll need Kleenex for some pages, and a jolly heart for others. A book to share, and read again. In the same genre as C.S. Lewis's A Grief Observed. Well done.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Marla

    Loving and losing gracefully.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Cindy

    Moving, inspirational story of grief and loss.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Beth

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sharon Tolley

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kim Toney

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mary

  14. 5 out of 5

    Philip

  15. 5 out of 5

    Rev A M Caw

  16. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Williams

  17. 5 out of 5

    Dwight Penas

  18. 4 out of 5

    Cameron Barham

  19. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Ryan

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jason Clarke

  21. 5 out of 5

    Edward N Jesle

  22. 4 out of 5

    Holly LaFon

  23. 4 out of 5

    Regina Saravia

  24. 5 out of 5

    Cassie

    Made teary and introspective and thought-filled. That was the point of the book.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Carol Johnson

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ernest

  27. 5 out of 5

    Katie

  28. 4 out of 5

    Olivia Costanza

  29. 5 out of 5

    Molly

  30. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Primero

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