Writing about pain is never easy. Taking note of our life’s tragedies, its circumstance and aftermath is probably the most challenging narrative that any writer can produce. It takes courage to make everyday recordings of your personal heartaches, never-ending obstacles, and anxieties with little to impart on victories, genuine gratitude, and even celebrating life itself. And yet, Lisabeth Mackall’s Dying to Live Your Life is all about that, and more.
Dying to Live Your Life is Lisabeth Mackall’s second book. It was published early this year. Year’s prior, Ms. Mackall gave us the riveting masterpiece 27 Miles: Tank’s Journey Home which documents her husband’s tragic accident which left him with a brain injury. Officer Frank Mackall’s injury changed the lives of the Mackall household. We remember how Lisabeth bravely faced every hard blow that Frank’s injury brought to the family by starting a journal that would later form the bulk of 27 Miles. It was then that we first took a glimpse of Lisabeth’s unwavering commitment to the family but also her relentlessness to understand the tragedy and along with it, her resolve to keep her husband and her family intact.
However, just as the Mackall family seem to enjoy a semblance of normalcy and recovery, breast cancer hit Lisabeth in March of 2018. This is something that even in her wildest nightmare Lisa did not expect. Coming from a life-altering tragedy, this certainly is devastating news. Lisa has been holding on to her sanity all those time that she had to deal with Frank’s brain injury and everything that went along with it. Any battle-scarred human being, no matter how strong mentally and emotionally would have thrown the towel in. For breast cancer is not only physical illness, but it also breaks down people and Lisa just came from a long hard-fought war. Yet again, Lisabeth Mackall surprises us all. Left with no choice but to face breast cancer, she wisely went back to her fortress- journal writing. Forge from her previous battles, she decided to record her journey towards overcoming cancer. Dying to Live Your Life is proof that not only is Lisabeth Mackall a veteran of life’s battles but she is also a master of transcribing tragedies.
The Lonesome Chatterbox
Reading Lisabeth Mackall’s Dying to Live Your Life reminds me of the classic non-fiction book The Diary of Anne Frank. It is a compilation of a young girl’s observation, personal experience, and the collective tragedy of living under Nazi Occupation. Of course, Anne Frank and her family died in the concentration camp except for her father.
In a way, Lisabeth writes with perpetual gloom and yet somehow manages to show us that life, every now and then, is worth celebrating. While, 27 Miles is dark, bitter, and almost anxious at every turn, Dying to Live Your Life embraces life as it is- it’s inconveniences, melancholy, and frustration. But more importantly, the book also displays resilience, appreciation, and acceptance.
Mackall writes in a way that is surprisingly honest. Like Anne Frank, Lisabeth is unapologetic in her confessions and writes with a level of personal honesty that is rarely seen in most memoirs and autobiographical literature.
We can fault Mackall for conjuring lengthy sentences and paragraphs at times but it can be seen as a product of desperately wanting to tell every detail, every emotion, and with it, every inch of honesty. Dividing the book into 18 chapters somehow provided timely breaks in between long entries. There is a much-needed pause, a pleasant transition between Mackall’s vivid recollections. The book still carries the same melancholic tone but with each confession, Lisabeth somehow successfully eases the reader’s weariness because each entry is meant to ease her own burden as well. And in that aspect, Lisabeth is successful.
A Narrative for the Suffering, An Inspiration for the Living
While Lisabeth’s narrative is not something that is experienced by most people, there is a generic-ness to her narratives. Dying to Live Your Life is written in a way that a specific experience by someone actually offers general lessons and there lies the communion between Lisabeth and the readers. There is constant humanity in every entry. For that reason alone, I think both 27 Miles and Dying to Live Your Life is a must-read for all those who doubt about the endless possibilities of life. An inspiring read through and through.