Wherever You Are, by Cynthia Lim: A Memoir of Love, Marriage, and Brain Injury

Wherever You Are ($16.95, 240 pages, 5×8 Trade Paperback, ISBN: 978-1-60381-721-9), by Cynthia Lim, is a memoir about the responsibilities of caregiving, redefining life with disability, and discovering the real truth of love and marriage.

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“If you’re a caregiver for someone who has life changing health issues, or know a caregiver, grab this book. With depth and brutal honesty, Cynthia Lim shares her journey and hard-won lessons about life after her husband’s heart attack and resulting brain injury. In this beautifully written memoir she learns gratitude (without a hint of sentimentality) for what is left–‘Enough of his essence remained so that his silent companionship anchored me, provided me with reminders of what was most important in life.’ She also learned how to reach out beyond her own grief to accept support and help. Ultimately this is a love story; a marriage and a family that has held fast in spite of overwhelming challenges.”
–Barbara Abercrombie, author of A Year of Writing Dangerously and Kicking in the Wall

“I can’t get this story out of my head. It haunts me. It makes me wonder, Would I be that brave? That strong? That full of joy?”
–Jennie Nash, Founder and Chief Creative Officer, AuthorAccelerator.com

“For anyone who has been dealt one of life’s unexpected blows, Cynthia Lim’s memoir, Wherever You Are is a heartwarming reminder of love, commitment, marriage and how to make your way forward after the unimaginable. Lim’s honest prose and compelling story of her husband’s sudden cardiac arrest and resulting brain injury, is a wonderful account of all of the emotions, heartbreak, acceptance and ultimately small joys that come with a ‘slowed down life.’ As life moves forward for all of us, the lesson is to continually accept the new shape of our lives.”
–Lee Woodruff, author of In An Instant: A Family’s Journey of Love and Healing

Wherever You Are by Cynthia Lim, answers the question ‘What makes a life worth living?’ When Lim’s young husband suffers a crippling brain injury, she feels at first like a widow whose husband isn’t dead. Where is the man she married? Over time she and her teenage sons deal with the stark reality of the challenges of her husband’s disability. Just as they had adventured as a family on sea and into the wilderness, they learn to navigate the world of disability. A beautifully written love story by a courageous woman who finds the capacity to experience joy and love in the face of devastating loss.”
–Maureen Murdock, author of Unreliable Truth: On Memoir and Memory

Cynthia Lim thought she had the perfect life: a husband who was a successful attorney, a fulfilling career in education, two teenage sons in private school, and a home in Los Angeles rich in books, music, and art. Then in 2003, her husband Perry suffers a cardiac arrest and brain injury, lingering in a coma for ten days before slowly awakening. A different person emerges, one who has lost his short-term memory and is fully dependent on others. Married for twenty years, she doesn’t know how much of his former self will return as she fights for the treatment and care he needs.

She struggles with caregiving and working full-time while finding connection with the man she once knew and loved, whose brain will never again function as it did before. While wrestling with the urge to leave him in an institution and walk away, she discovers the strength and resolve that will allow her to build a new life. Wherever You Are is the story of a marriage after a spouse is forever changed by a catastrophic event. It is a story of redefining life with disability and discovering the real truth of love and marriage.

Cynthia Lim lives in Los Angeles with her husband. She is retired from Los Angeles Unified School District and holds a doctorate in social welfare. Her essays have appeared in various publications including Hawai’i Pacific Review, Gemini Magazine, Hobart, and Witness Magazine. For more information, look here.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

In a quiet moment alone with my mother, she sat next to me and said, “I know the pain that you are going through. I have lived through all kinds of pain, too. I know what it feels like, a thousand needles jabbing you at one time. You will get through this.”

Her words soothed me. We were united in our shared tragedy, the loss of husbands, of lives cut short abruptly. I felt more connected to my mother than I ever had before.

“I know how tired you are, how hard it feels to face each day. I know what it feels like. But you need to take care of yourself. You are shouldering so much responsibility. Just remember to take care of yourself first because you can’t help others if you don’t,” she continued.
I understood so many things about my mother in that moment. I had spent so much of my life not wanting to be like her but now I understood. What seemed selfish to me as a child I now saw as her drive for self-preservation, for assuring that her needs were met first. I understood her neediness, her desire to stockpile groceries, to have everything in place, so that in times of crisis when the world seemed scary and unknown, there would be this semblance of order. Her cupboards, her pantry, her house, her children were the only things that she could control.

“You need to stay strong for Perry and for Zack and Paul,” said my mother.

“Yes, I know,” I said. She didn’t realize that she had been preparing me for this role since I was seven.

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