3 out of 4 stars
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The cover page is inspired by tattoos that the author’s half-sister had on her body. Devastated by her sudden death at the age of twenty-four, her family desired to perpetuate her memory by publishing The Last Day of Regret. For several years, Matthew J. Diaz has been struggling with the feelings of regret, guilt, and shame associated with how they related to each other when she was alive. Hannah suffered psychologically from Borderline Personality Disorder and had a history of "drinking, drugs, sex, overeating, and cutting" herself to anesthetize the emotional pain. She regretted it all but craved for attention.
Even as a youth pastor and five years older, Matthew found it difficult to adjust to her behavior that drained his energy. He has written this memoir in detail, expressing his thoughts and feelings with surprising honesty. There isn’t a big gap between how he reveals his ideal and real self. The young man was experiencing brokenness due to personal problems. His wife, Katie, was close to Hannah, and the children loved their aunt. She had dropped out of college, was dependent on her parents, and was a difficult person. One the one hand, Matthew blames himself for contributing to her death and shares the pain of his stepdad feeling like a failure after the loss of his only blood child. On the other hand, with all that she was going through, her brother believes God has used her death for his good purpose, to prevent something worse. Hannah died in the Lord.
Matthew shares relatively little about his other siblings (an elder brother and two older twin sisters). It is only toward the end that he writes something substantial about their relationships. I was wondering about their role in Hannah’s life. In fact, their silence seems to speak a lot in the story and is something I did not like because it gave rise to several questions. This book exposes the guilt, shame, and brokenness associated with the mysterious and untimely death of a loved one.
There were tears in my eyes while reading The Last Day of Regret, and I could empathize with the author when he explained how the amount of pain associated with death depends on factors like nearness to the deceased, their age, story, and how they died. I felt sorry to know how his sister’s death was a great blow to the family for all these reasons and can imagine what it could be like to be in their place. It is fathomable that Matthew regrets not being humble enough to express his gratitude toward Hannah when she was alive. What I liked most is the beautiful analogy he gives of Hannah as a prodigal daughter and himself as the elder brother in the biblical parable (Luke 15:11-32).
From the tone of the writer, I felt as if he was addressing the book to his deceased sister, telling her how he really felt about her behavior and giving the reasons for his own reactions. It is understandable. I remember the loss of my sibling several decades ago and can sense the nostalgia and grief experienced by the author’s family. As a counselor, it also makes me speculate what the readers of this memoir will think. According to the author, “The day she died was her last day of regretting all her life’s choices because now she is with Jesus.” There are several possibilities. Perhaps youngsters going through a bad time might feel tempted to harm themselves or decide to change their mind about doing so. Maybe families will learn something from the true-life story. Those who have a family member suffering from a psychological problem may benefit from reading the book and feel understood.
After weighing the pros and cons as stated above, I give The Last Day of Regret a rating of 3 out of 4 stars. It has a few grammatical errors, and a round of editing will raise the quality of the publication. I hope it will bring healing to those grieving the loss of a loved one and recommend it to counselors, teachers, parents, and other adults. It is not meant for children or those who are fainthearted.
The Last Day of Regret
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