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Publisher's Summary

An inspiring and brilliantly observed memoir in the manner of When Breath Becomes Air and Tuesdays with Morrie.

"The expression "still waters run deep" has never been more apt. Jeff Sutherland's Still Life is the training manual all of us need for how to face terrible loss and redefine the good life. If only Job could have read it." (Mo Rocca, CBS Sunday Morning)

Father, husband, athlete, medical doctor, Jeff Sutherland had built a perfect life for himself and his family. Then, he noticed that he was losing strength in his left arm. He visited a specialist, and from that appointment, he writes, "Deep personal loss, for some unknown reason, wrapped its tentacles around me and my family."

Diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease), Jeff lost his abilities to walk and speak within two years and, confined to a wheelchair, was forced to retire from his life's work as a physician at 43. Not long after, he was locked in his own inanimate body, unable to eat, drink, or breathe without assistance. His meals were delivered through a feeding tube, and a ventilator controlled his lungs through an opening in his throat. The only parts of his body he was able to move voluntarily were his eyes.

Despite these extreme limitations, Sutherland made peace with his disease and, surrounded by his loving family, he found happiness again...only to suffer another soul-shattering loss. His eldest son, Zachary, a lifeguard, drowned along with his girlfriend in a freak kayaking accident in the river behind the family home. 

"Despite everything I lost through ALS," he says, "Zachary's death was worse." Yet again, through a long process of suffering and healing, Sutherland was able to accept his loss and find a renewed sense of purpose and meaning in his constricted life.

His story, laboriously written on a computerized device that tracks his eye movements on a visual keyboard, is a testament to both the human will's ability to overcome unspeakable tragedy and the power of familial love to heal incomprehensible pain. 

"When a negative change occurs," writes Sutherland, "we have to choose how we will face it. We can be paralyzed with fear or we can make the choice to integrate it into our lives, make peace with it, and eventually grow from it. With any change, good or bad, personal growth is the ideal outcome. It is my belief that this our soul's mission on earth."

©2018 Jeff Sutherland (P)2019 Jeff Sutherland and Sutherland House Books

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  • Minneapolis listener
  • 03-10-2020

A very fine book

Full of a husband’s longing and gratitude, interspersed with a father’s deep love and the yearning to physically be with be young boys this is what an ALS patient wants to tell us about his life then and now.

He and they are heroic, no doubt about it. It was an honor to read.

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  • Shanonymous
  • 22-05-2020

Wow... Speechless...

There is SO much I want to say, so I will have to come back and edit this once I have the words to sum up my emotions. Right now I just need to process this absolutely amazing autobiography.

What I can say is that I wasn't looking for a book on ALS; this happened to be one of the recommended books on the bottom of the book I intended to buy. something drew me to it, and I couldn't be more grateful.

Before coming back to write more, I just want to say that today is the 21st of May. RUSH is my favorite band and I cried like a baby when Peart passed away unexpectedly. "The Trees" is my favorite song ever.

Finally, I was so moved by your 18 word mantra, Jeff; however I couldn't stop thinking of 3 additional words I would add, despite the fact that Resilience is such an appropriate finale. The 3 words alphabetically follow Resilience, and those words are: Sons, Trust, and Wife.

Which, btw, equals 21. That may be a sad number for you; I recently lost both of my only and closest family members, my dogters; one was on 2/9/18, then six months later, 7/22/18. I used to be sad when I heard those dates, but now I cherish them because I know that was their special time to enter the spiritual realm.

I, too, have a science-based career: Applied Behavior Analysis, where I always look for sources in peer reviewed, multiple, replicated, large sample studies in reputable journals, and tend to ask people to cite their sources in conversations. Yet I also have learned that there must be a spiritual realm; to me "God" is the Universe. It is everything - trees, animals, blades of grass, clouds, rivers, space, time, music, humans, you, etc. So I understand how odd yet fascinating it is to transform my belief system to mesh science with spirituality.

I suppose I wasn't as speechless as I thought! Yet there's still more I want to say; I intend to come back to this review and add more. By the way, I have 394 books in my Audible queue, and this is only the second book for which I have ever felt compelled to write a review.

You are resilient. You are incredible. You are unstoppable.

Thank you for this gift of a spectacular book. The clock just turned to midnight - the 22nd is the "anniversary" of one of my dogter's passing. It's no longer a sad day; I will celebrate and cherish the 16¾ years we were blessed to have together.

In the spirit of reconciliation, Audible Australia acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respect to their elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.