When I began reading The Best Seven Years of My Life: The Story of an Unlikely Caregiver it was with a sense of skepticism. Co-written by George Shannon and his son Chad Patrick Shannon, it is the story of an elderly couple from Sewickley, PA. As the couple nears retirement age, their lives are cruelly disrupted when the wife suffers several devastating strokes. Told from the viewpoint of Carol’s husband George, the story presents a brutally honest account of the effects of catastrophic illness on the lives of this couple.
I had expected sadness, anger, even self pity; what I did not expect was humor, optimism and joy. George reveals how taking on the role of caregiver led him to rediscover a sense of humility. It re-transformed their marriage into a relationship based on unconditional love. George found himself discovering things about his wife that he hadn’t known or to which he had not paid attention. He rediscovered her wit and wicked sense of humor. He admired her love of life and determination to live life to its fullest.
The next seven years bring additional medical trials, some seemingly insurmountable. Yet, George and Carol were able to face them together with courage and dignity. As a result, their lives become richer and their love deeper. Far from being a story of a man doing his duty, it is an inspiring account of this couple’s rediscovered love and acceptance of those things that could not be changed.
The Best Seven Years of My Life will become more relevant to an increasingly aging population of readers. More of us will face something that many of us look upon with sadness and dread. It is comforting to realize that that need not be the whole picture.