Showing posts with label hospice. Show all posts
Showing posts with label hospice. Show all posts

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Final Gifts Book Review

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Though it is not rare to encounter individuals who speak multiple languages with great fluency, it is less common to find someone who understands the unique language of the dying.  Too often the gifts that are offered up in the final days of a loved one's life are missed because of the symbolism that may be mistaken for confusion.

Hospice nurses, Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelley, share with us, through moving personal stories, how individuals near the end of their lives communicate in often cryptic ways.  When we learn how to listen more closely, and through the filter of what has held meaning for that individual, we may enter into the grace and beauty of the Final Gifts they are offering us.

I can understand if you are sitting here wondering why anyone would want to read about death and dying.  It's not as depressing as you might imagine.  I've found it to be quite the opposite when you find compassionate authors who want to offer their readers the kinds of gifts that make it possible to be what a dying person needs them to be.

What Callanan and Kelley have learned over the years is that their patients enter a stage they call Nearing Death Awareness.  While in this critical phase, it is not unusual for people to know exactly when they will die.  We see from their stories that clues are being given to family members to help them get ready for an impending transition.

For instance, someone who always enjoyed traveling with her partner expressed the following: It's time to get in line.  This was the indication that she was soon to depart on her final journey.  One thing was holding her back, though.  She needed to know that the husband who had depended so greatly on her was going to be alright after she was gone. 

The patient who always celebrated his July 4th anniversary with a sparkler cake confused his family in June by saying it's time to get the cake.  He knew he was going to miss his anniversary, so he wanted everyone to celebrate early.  These pronouncements are important, but easily missed when chalked up to the stupor of pain medications, or the confusion of being deathly ill.

By becoming more aware of how the dying communicate their needs and desires, we can better support leave-taking on their terms.  By doing so, we are opening up the gifts they have lovingly chosen for us.  And, we are offering up the gift of honoring the wishes that help bring peace at the end of life.


Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Review of Facing Death and the Life After by Billy Graham

Facing Death is Something Most People Prefer Not to Think About

It is difficult for people to face their own mortality. We all like to think we'll have the time we need to do all we want or think we should do. But like it or not, death often comes when we least expect it. Whether we need to prepare for our own death or help another prepare,  Facing Death and the Life After by Billy Graham will help. 

Review of Facing Death and the Life After by Billy Graham

How Relevant is This Book for You?

This book was sitting on my mother's bookshelf, now mine. I decided to read it because it was there. I know my own death could come at any time. I'm 73. My dad died at 70 and my mom at 89. Both died of cancer. I have witnessed the deaths of my mother and my husband's mother. I have lost several others I have loved, including both of my children and two very close friends. I wondered what Billy Graham could say to me that I hadn't heard before. 

To be honest, the book surprised me. I guess I expected that since Billy Graham was a Christian evangelist, the book would be like a long sermon on getting ready to meet one's Maker. It did include that -- mostly in the last chapter. The rest of the book dealt with the fear of death, the grieving process, and setting one's house in order before death. It was very practical. 

The Fear of Death

Review of Facing Death and the Life After by Billy Graham

Many of us are not so afraid of what happens after we die as we are of the dying process itself. Very few of us know how we will die. I can assume I will die of cancer because my parents did, but I also could be killed instantly in an accident as my son was. 

With the way the world is going, we might be in the wrong place at the wrong time and suffer an evil attack by another person intent on hurting us. We might even go the way most people would like to -- quietly in our sleep.

I think if we are being honest, many of us do fear the process of dying,  especially if we might die a lingering and/or painful death. Billy Graham gives advice on how to face even that. 

Dealing with the Grieving Process

Graham has counseled many who are about to die and their loved ones they leave behind. He has given us very helpful information on helping those who are nearing death. He urges us not to pretend that a dying person isn't dying. Many facing death do want to talk about it. We should be willing to listen and deal with their fears and questions. This book helps with that. It also helps you understand what a bereaved person may be going through and how you can best help. 

Setting One's House in Order

Have you ever hesitated to have a conversation with an aging parent about such things as whether they have made a will or trust or what kind of death arrangements they may have made? Many people don't know how to approach such a conversation. Some parents try to initiate these conversations with adult children, and the children brush them off. 

Graham urges everyone to plan for their deaths and what will become of their material possessions. He even suggests planning your own funeral or memorial service. Why? To make everything easier for your family. Why should they be left guessing what you want or where the bankbooks are? If we truly love our spouse and children, we will make sure we do our best to provide for them when we are gone. Graham gives very practical advice for setting your house in order long before you may think you will need it. 

Ethical Issues Related to Death

Review of Facing Death and the Life After by Billy Graham

I found discussions of the ethical questions surrounding death to be one of the more valuable parts of the book. Fifty years ago people did not need advanced directives or living wills because there were not so many ways one could artificially prolong life. 

Graham deals with suicide, euthanasia, when or whether to pull the plug when all hope seems gone, refusing heroic measures to prolong life, hospice care, and just about any other issue the dying and their loved ones need to think through. These discussions are very practical. I'm urging my husband to read this because we both need to think more carefully about the way our lives should end if either of us has to make a difficult and painful decision. 

Other Topics Graham Covers in Facing Death

Billy Graham covers attitudes toward death and its meaning as seen in cultures and religions worldwide. He talks about the "conspiracy of silence" surrounding death, the tendency to deny approaching death, and the stages of accepting that one is going to die. He discusses how some well-known people have faced their deaths and prepared for them. 

Graham gives his own answers to these questions:
  • Why do some people die "too soon"?
  • How do you explain death to a child? 
  • Are there stages of death? 
  • What, exactly, is death?
  • Should we be afraid of death?
  • What about divine healing?
  • What is the difference between active and passive euthanasia?
  • How do I help a grieving person?

Theological Questions Graham Answers

Graham is bold in stating his beliefs on what happens after we die. He sees death as the last enemy and one Jesus conquered. He provides answers from the Bible to these questions many wonder about . 
  • Is there a Heaven and Hell?
  • What are they like?
  • Where will I go when I die?
  • Will everyone die?
  • What is the Judgement Seat of Christ? 
  • Is it true we will get new bodies in Heaven? 
  • How can I make sure I'm going to Heaven?

Who Should Read This Book?

I think every adult will find useful information in this book, even those who are not Christians. Much of the book deals with practical matters such as planning for one's death, settling one's affairs, making the best decision possible if you are ever faced with determining if life support should be withdrawn from a loved one, and other issues you may not even realize it's time to think through. 

Christians will find answers to questions that may have puzzled them about death and what comes after death. I like Graham's balanced approach to controversial theological questions. He doesn't take a dogmatic stand on questions about the end times and the rapture, and he comes out against those who claim to be able to predict when Christ will return. He sticks to what the Bible clearly teaches and stays away from those issues which are hotly debated by evangelical theologians. 

If you are terminally ill or know someone who is, this book will definitely help you. It gently explains what you can expect during your remaining time and how to prepare yourself or a loved one for a fast-approaching death. Graham explains the mission of hospice ministries and is supportive of them. 

Where Can I Get Facing Death?

Facing Death is now out of print. It is available used at Amazon, and there is also an audio book available. You can use the links below to purchase these. There are also several copies of this book in different editions on eBay. 

My Own Experiences with Death

It's never too early to prepare to face your death or that of someone you love. My son died in an accident at only 14. We weren't ready to face it. I was better prepared when it was time to face my mother's cancer death and help her through it. I was with her when she took that last journey. You can read our story in Caring for a Dying Loved One. My daughter died by her own hand. I wrote her story as Sarah: The Suicide of Our Adult Child.  All these articles are free to read. 

Book Review of Facing Death and the Life After by Billy Graham


Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”

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