Thursday, September 19, 2019

Final Journeys Book Review

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As Finn and I take our therapy team training to the next level, our focus has been on preparing to bring comfort to those nearing the end of their lives.  Experiencing my mother's transition from this life while in hospice had a profound impact on me and inspired me to pursue this ministry of care.  In my current process of pursuing certification as an end-of-life doula, I am reading some deeply meaningful books that everyone could find beneficial.

We will all deal with dying and death.  Perhaps some of you reading this are caring for a loved one who is seriously ill, or maybe you have been given a terminal diagnosis.  The shock, heartbreak, and grief can be devastating, but amazingly, there are also elements of deep meaning, inspiration, and beauty in knowing how to live fully right up to our last hour on Earth.

In Final Journeys, Maggie Callanan, a compassionate hospice nurse who has guided families for over twenty-five years, provides us with the insights she has learned from those in her care.  The true teachers are those who are actually figuring out how to turn a dying experience into something peaceful and, in many cases, even celebratory.

Until recently, death hasn't been a topic of conversation that most people chose to address proactively.  I know that my own family was not very prepared to deal with the critical decisions needing to be made at the time that my mother and father were in end-of-life comas and unable to express their desires.  My siblings and I did what we had to do under the circumstances, but in many ways, the fabric of our family was torn irreparably in the process.  Things could have been handled so much better had we known then what Callanan shares in this practical guide.

As the author provides us with poignant personal stories, we gain wisdom about what to expect, how to best communicate, when to get specific types of support, and how to navigate the physical, emotional, and spiritual challenges of dying well (and helping others do the same).  Perhaps most importantly, in learning what we need to know about life's biggest transition, we are encouraged to reflect on what we most want in life and at our time of death.

I found Final Journeys to be much more than a useful guide to directing my future work in hospice service.  For me, it has been a highly reflective journey that has positively touched the parts of me still processing the losses in my own life.  It was an uplifting, and in many ways, healing read.

I only wish this book had existed when I first entered into nursing care as a young woman.  Perhaps, though, I was more ready to receive its teachings now that I have experienced significantly more love and loss over the years.  As a result of taking this journey with Maggie Callanan, I feel much better prepared to enter into new ways of bringing comfort to the living and the dying.  I also feel ready to orchestrate my own beautiful transition when the time comes.

Also Highly Recommended:  Final Gifts




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12 comments:

  1. This is not a book that I would normally pick up on my own to read. I try to stay away from anything that is depressing or upsetting. However, after reading your review, this book doesn't sound disturbing or upsetting and I think we would all benefit from a comforting look death.

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    1. I totally get that. This is a genre that most likely draws those who are at a point of need, or at a point of wanting to lovingly touch someone in need. Talking or reading about experiences with the dying is something that would normally cause trepidation among the living. However, I didn't experience any discomfort while reading this book. I think the author's approach is soothing in that her express purpose is to ensure that we all experience peaceful transitions. Perhaps what helps readers is to see the sacred aspects of being in the presence of someone who dies well.

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  2. Renaissance Woman, as you may or may not know, I was told a year and six months ago, that I had 6 months to a year to live. I beat those odds, but I know it's only temporary. I'm not sure any book can ease my exit from this life, but if it could, it would probably be this one. Thanks for the review.

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    1. All of us who love you are thankful you are defying the odds. I know you are encircled by love. This book could help those individuals who won't be ready to see you go when your time comes. And, it can help all of us better define how we wish that transition to go.

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  3. I experienced a Hospice situation first hand with my darling hubby and admired so much how caring and supportive they were, both with Bob and with me & our kids. The support you and Finn will be giving to both the living and the dying will be a special gift. I think this book would be helpful to anyone, before, during and after the death of a loved one. I plan to read it and appreciate you bringing it to my attention.

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    1. I didn't realize you had also been through a hospice season. I'm glad to hear it was such a caring and supportive time in the life of your family. We all need that. This is a book you can read and provide to others in their time of need. I really believe it can make a difference.

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  4. Death and dying is something that no one wants to talk about, but, it should be one of the things that everyone should do. Hubby and I are both involved with care of elderly family and visit nursing homes. It does not help to tell a volunteer what you would like, tell your family! On death and Dying by Elizabth Kubler-Ross is also a great book to help in these circumstances. Thanks for bringing a topic up, that really needs addressing. I will look at this book too!

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    1. I also have the book you mention on my night stand (On Death and Dying). It is such a classic (and it broke a lot of new ground when first published). I remember that book be required reading during my grad school days. I wonder why we are so reluctant as a society to have conversations about death? Is it denial, or fear? I'm at a point in my life where I find those conversations to be so meaningful. Too bad we often wait so long to talk about one of the most significant things that will happen to all of us. Thank you for all that you do in ministering to others. One of the points of the book is that people are often so lonely towards the end of life. We can make a difference in easing that sense of being alone. No one should feel abandoned, or unsupported, at such a critical time.

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  5. I'm finding myself a little burnt out with this topic this year, but honestly I need the book. We're getting affairs in order too, and I honestly hate the entire process. I never used to be that way. Am a detail person, but lately these kind of details I'm procrastinating. Thanks for the intro to the book, I'll keep it on my list for a later date when my mind has had a rest lol.

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    1. You will know when the time is right. I have waited way too long to get my affairs in order. The time is now. I think when you have had some serious medical scares, as I have, and when you have seen your parents die without written directives, you realize you can't put this off. Give yourself the rest and the break that you need. It's hard to have these conversations when you are feeling burned out. After you refill your tank, this could be an important read that will help someone in your family.

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  6. I think our affairs are mostly in order, but we do need alternates as trustees and for our advanced directives. We outlived the ones we had designated. It's had to find people you can trust. I think I may want to read this.

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    1. You are way ahead of me in terms of having things in order. Just this week I was thinking about the importance of having alternates (for the reason you mention). I don't have my own family, so it is challenging to think about who I would trust to be in charge of my affairs. It's too important to leave to chance, or to leave in the hands of someone you barely know. In the book, even family members sometimes proved to be unreliable (agreeing to what a parent wanted and then going against their wishes once they were incapacitated and unable to make sure their advanced directives were honored). It's like you need a check and balance in place to ensure that one person doesn't go rogue.

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