How This Book Came to Be . . .
A Synchronistic Encounter
The Author’s Story
Why are you writing this book? I have been asked that question consistently since I first took on this project. It all started back in 1997 when I was living in Seattle, Washington. On one particular weekend, I sat down to scan the Seattle Times classified ads as I usually did every Sunday morning. My profession as an Executive Recruiter required diligence in knowing what was going on in the job market at any given moment. My eyes were drawn to an ad that read “Entrepreneurial Recruiter wanted to launch a company.”
“Why not? What do I have to lose?” I thought as I dropped my resume in the mail. Several weeks later, I found myself sitting in a reception area waiting to be called in for an interview. I was ushered into a small office with a picture window overlooking the elite city of Bellevue, Washington. That was the first time I met him. He was an attractive petite man, with distinguished gray hair and a well-trimmed mustache and goatee, dressed in a dark suit and bow tie. Sitting behind an enormous cherrywood desk much too large for the size of his body, he greeted me with a rich baritone voice and introduced himself as Ron Adkins. I was immediately put at ease by his gentle eyes and warm smile.
Perusing my resume, he glanced above the rim of his stylish black metal-framed glasses and stated matter-of-factly, “I’m the husband of Janet Adkins. Have you heard of her?” I shook my head no, and he said, “My wife received a diagnosis of early Alzheimer’s and decided that she wanted to die with dignity. Janet was the first person to end her life with the help of Dr. Kevorkian’s ‘death machine.’ Today, June fourth, is the seventh anniversary of her death.”
I admitted that I was familiar with Dr. Kevorkian, but I was not familiar with the case of Ron’s wife. For the next two hours, Ron poured out the details of Janet’s story. That she was still very much a part of his life was apparent to me. He talked about her as if she were right there in the room with us. I left the interview knowing much about Janet Adkins and little about the position for which I had applied.
Driving home, I knew that somehow my life had been changed with that encounter. I didn’t know if I would ever see Ron again, but I felt honored that he had felt comfortable sharing the intimate details of his wife’s death with a complete stranger.
The following week, I was surprised when I was invited back for a second interview. Ron explained that the position was actually working for his son, Neil, an entrepreneur. They were looking for someone to start a recruiting firm that would assist in expanding Neil’s current company to other states. Because the idea of a recruiting firm was a new concept for their organization, defining the particulars of this new extension of their company would take some time before they were ready to make a commitment of a job offer.
The interview process continued over a three-month period. I eventually started my new position four months after my first meeting with Ron. When the position was presented, Neil informed me, “I’m offering you the job because my father likes you. You two will be working together as partners, and it’s important that my father has a say in who will be working with him.”
Like his father, Neil not only possessed charisma and charm, but he also carried an underlying sense of sadness and unrest that was visible on the surface. My experience with entrepreneurs was usually one of intense frustration. Imaginative and creative entrepreneurs were always one step ahead of their dreams, and it seemed like results never happened as fast as they should. Three months later, due to the lack of funding, my position was eliminated.
Ron and I remained friends, meeting for coffee on a regular basis. One day I pointed out that it had been eight years since the death of his wife, and I didn’t understand why he had never written Janet’s story. He told me that when the news first broke of Janet’s death, he had been approached, on more than one occasion, to discuss publishing and movie rights. However, after careful consideration, the decision makers in the industry concluded that the financial risk was far too great for the controversial subject to appear on the big screen.
It was then that I heard the following words fall from my lips: “I’d like to write Janet’s story. I think it is an important story for humanity and one that needs to be told. You’re not getting any younger, and when you die the story goes with you.” After thinking it over, Ron concluded that I would be the perfect person to write Janet’s story. He felt that since I had very little knowledge on the subject, I would be open-minded prior to forming any conclusions. When I first started working on the project, Ron entrusted me with Janet’s most precious possessions. He handed me a white foam cup containing Janet’s wedding ring, a gold necklace, and a gold bracelet. Janet had gotten the cup from their motel room and had placed her jewelry in it just before she left for her engagement with Dr. Kevorkian. The jewelry had remained in that cup for eight long years, and it held all the emotions that were attached to Janet and the last days of her life.
Gradually, Ron released the remainder of Janet’s treasures into my care. I received boxes of videotapes, newspaper articles, magazine articles, family photos, and Janet’s journals from the early sixties and seventies. Nearly everything had sat in those boxes, untouched, for the past eight years. I was mesmerized by their contents and brought to tears when I realized that Ron had very little knowledge as to the contents of the journals because it had been too painful for him to read them and to be reminded of his previous life with Janet and the family.
I interviewed the participants, transcribed more than forty cassette tapes, viewed more than twenty television shows that carried Janet’s story, researched countless books, and sifted through the contents of the boxes. I thought it odd that she had left nothing of her later years. To me, that she had been intuitive enough to know what lay ahead was remarkable. She had accepted death many, many years before and had left everything needed to write her story.
Completing the interviews with Janet’s family and friends had a chilling effect on me. There appeared to be a commonality among them. Everyone was still grieving the loss of Janet. They talked about her as if she were still there with them, as Ron had on the day I met him. Tears flowed freely as each person humbly shared his or her most intimate moments with Janet. Eight years later, they were still raw from their experience.
As their stories unraveled, I began to see the threads that were so delicately woven throughout their lives. These individuals had been drawn together to interact with one another and to live out their happiness and their sorrow. In May 1999, my husband, Bill, and I moved to the San Diego area to escape the wetness of Seattle. In the silence of our spacious home, I received the solitude I needed to begin the writing of Janet’s story.
In that solitude, I gained my insights. There was much more to the story of Janet Adkins than I first realized. Before the book was complete, I would come to know Janet on an intimate level through her journals, friends, and family. And so was the beginning of Janet’s story.
Upon completing the manuscript, in 2000, I excitedly sent out queries to locate an agent to represent the book to publishers. Because of the controversial nature of the subject matter, I received many rejections in the months and years that followed. After a gallant effort, the manuscript was put into the storage cellar where it would age like a fine wine for nearly twenty years. Ron continued accepting speaking engagements and fighting for Janet’s cause by bringing awareness to the subject of doctor-assisted dying.
While vacationing in Maui in March 2019, I met with my friend, Sharon, who owns Sacred Life Publishers. Her area of publishing represents subjects on death and dying, which prompted me to bring up Janet’s story. In our discussion, Sharon informed me that the Death with Dignity Act had recently been passed in Hawaii. To me, obviously the timing for this book had finally arrived.