Rereading “A Very Easy Death” by Simone de Beauvoir

The unkind sport between death and dying.

There are many who looked to January 2021 as the arrival of new beginnings, fresh starts, and with less of last year’s bullshit. For some, the year started as the second version of 2020 – more Covid cases, deaths, the loss of jobs, and just that 2020 dick signature move of toppling over people’s lives.

I recently lost a loved one after they battled with illness and old age. Of course, it’s expected of a nonagenarian to go anytime but what is heavy is watching them suffer through illness, their body slowly taking its time to sign out. The past few weeks reminded me of A Very Easy Death by Simone de Beauvoir, and a story has never felt more profound, more stitched to my reality than this one has. So, I reread it and wanted to repost the review.

A Very Easy Death is a poignant day-to-day account of her mother’s last weeks on her deathbed. Simone de Beauvoir writes honestly and compassionately about the race between pain and death that her mother goes through.

A Very Easy Death by Simone de Beauvoir

After a fall, a fracture of the neck of the femur is diagnosed. With more problems arising they finally discover cancer. At 78, Mme de Beauvoir has been widowed for more than twenty years and has two daughters.

From what seemed to be nothing to serious, Mme de Beauvoir’s body sinks into a devastating hole of rapidly deteriorating health. The doctors’ efforts to keep her alive through surgery and medication seem cruel than helpful, as her mother’s suffering intensifies. Simone bears witness to all these moments of how the illness tortures her mother.

“For the first time I saw her as a dead body under suspended sentence.”

– Simone de Beauvoir, A Very Easy Death

This raw story really shows the tragedy of dying and how worse it is to be dying than death itself. It also shows how lonely death can be, and how helpless the ones close to the dying person can be. The false hopes and the witnessing of pain and death playing a brutal game of tug-of-war. De Beauvoir records her despair, one greater than she had felt when her father and other family members died.

It’s intelligently written, as one would expect nothing less from Simone de Beauvoir. It’s brief and powerful, moving, and shocking. Beautiful and tragic at the same time.  

If you’re going through or have gone through the same experience, of anticipatory grief, this book can let you know that you’re not alone. It’s a lonely place to be, for the one dying and the one witnessing this process. I hope it helps.

Heal. At your own pace.

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Autodidact & Bibliophile

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