Book of the Week

The Last Act Of Love: The Story Of My Brother And His Sister by Cathy Rentzenbrink. Photo: PA Photo/Scribe Publications
The Last Act Of Love: The Story Of My Brother And His Sister by Cathy Rentzenbrink. Photo: PA Photo/Scribe Publications

The Last Act Of Love: The Story Of My Brother And His Sister by Cathy Rentzenbrink

When Cathy Rentzenbrink’s happy-go-lucky, bright, witty 16-year-old brother was knocked down by a hit-and-run driver, she and her family desperately prayed that he would live.

God may have answered their prayers initially, but the severity of the head injury he suffered followed by the debilitating epileptic fits which followed left him in a permanent vegetative state.

She says now that she was praying for the wrong thing.

The way Cathy, who was 13 months older than Matty, writes about their cheerful and loving family normality and her closeness to her brother - they took the mickey, shared everyday experiences and joshed with each other while working at the pub their parents ran - makes the terrible aftermath of the accident all the more searingly painful.

For a year, they lived in hope that he would miraculously come out of his ‘coma’, refusing to believe that the Matty they knew and loved had gone and was being kept alive artificially.

They brought him home from hospital and cared for him themselves for four long years until they were so exhausted they moved him to a nursing home. Another three years on, Cathy and her parents applied to the courts for Matty’s life-sustaining treatment to be discontinued.

The judge agreed. He died in 1998, some eight years after the accident.

But it is the devastating effect on Cathy that is the saddest element of this story.

Unable to move on and drinking heavily, she goes through therapy, marriage and divorce and particularly books, are her salvation as she throws herself into a job at Waterstones.