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Montclair Mother Writes About Her Husband's Final Days In "The Last Kiss"

Leslie Brody will be reading at Watchung Booksellers next month.

 

"I love this book because it is so honest. Leslie Brody writes openly about what it is like to watch her husband slip away. Some of her stories will break your heart, others bring a smile to your face. Yes, The Last Kiss is a portrait of loss...but also, and more importantly, of a life lived fully."

 —Meredith Vieira

Leslie Brody, a 38-year-old newspaper reporter and Montclair mother of two, thought her life was finally heading in the right direction when she married Elliot, a funny, romantic and brilliant editor with three kids of his own. But six years after their wedding, they learned that Elliot had pancreatic cancer and would be lucky to live for a year or two. In The Last Kiss (TitleTown Publishing, October 2012), Leslie shares her deep love for her husband and shows how they managed to have a beautiful, rich time together despite the most daunting circumstances.

The book grew out of Leslie’s national award-winning series, “Living with Cancer,” in The Record newspaper in New Jersey.

The Last Kiss explores essential themes of family life, including the importance of appreciating what you have while you have it, discussing hard truths honestly and keeping a sense of humor during the darkest times. Widowed at 47, Leslie also tells how she found the courage to move forward after such a tragic loss.

Brody will be reading from her book and doing a book signing at Watchung Booksellers at 7 p.m. on Oct. 10.

Montclair Patch recently was able to ask Brody a few questions about her new book and the support she received from the Montclair community.

Q) How were you able to balance work-life issues during this time?

A)  I am very fortunate to work for The Record, a family-owned paper that gave me great flexibility to work part-time when my kids were little and when my husband was sick. I'm also lucky to have a reporting job where I don't need to supervise anybody or go to a lot of meetings, and I was careful to take on assignments that fit the days I could work. I ended up writing a newspaper series with a colleague called "Living with Cancer," so in a way, taking care of Elliot dovetailed with my research for the project. 

But really, the bottom line is that I had compassionate bosses who were incredibly understanding whenever I needed to cancel my work days. My husband's company, Bloomberg, was just as supportive. I hope other employers who read our story will be inspired to give that kind of help to their staffs—it certainly builds loyalty, and it's simply the humane thing to do.

Q) How were you able, emotionally, to write about your husband's last months?

A) Writing about my husband's last months was very cathartic. When I put my thoughts down on paper, they would stop swirling around in my head and harassing me. I also wanted to make sure I didn't forget what we went through, because there were so many beautiful, sweet, funny moments - for just the two of us and for our family. Writing relieved me of the anxiety that I might lose those memories. 

Once I decided to try to write a book, the project gave me a sense of purpose when the future looked so blank. It also gave me a chance to go through Elliot's love letters, emails and the goofy things on his desk—like his Lone Rangers lunchbox—with a feeling that it was productive instead of wallowing.

Q) What kind of support did you receive from the Montclair community?

A) A small army of generous, supremely talented women in Montclair helped me get this book done, and I'm very grateful. Laurie Lico Albanese taught a weekly memoir class in her attic (called Studio 129) that sustained me with advice, laughter and cookies. Many chapters in the book grew out of her writing prompts. Pamela Redmond Satran, an indefatigable writer, gave me tons of guidance and encouragement, and her MEWS (Montclair Editors and Writers) workshops gave me a glimpse into the publishing industry. So did the "Writing Matters" series at Watchung Booksellers. A book club friend who is a photographer, Susie McKeown, designed my book's cover. 

All this came on top of lots of help we got from friends and neighbors while Elliot was sick. I grew up in New York City apartments where we barely knew our neighbors, and feel very lucky to live now in a place where people are so caring and have so much to give.

Brody will be reading from her book and doing a book signing at Watchung Booksellers at 7 p.m. on Oct. 10.



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