Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Death: Read All About It...and be blessed

Books, Books and More Books
By Marsha Rivers, Hospice Director of Development and Community Relations
In our latest Hospice newsletter (hitting mailboxes this be posted online soon), I promised a list of the books I’ve been collecting on the topics of dying, death and bereavement. I’m still working my way through them, so don’t look for detailed descriptions on this list. I’ll come back later and embellish. For now, background and impressions: 
The two I mentioned in the column were:
Sacred Stories: What Hospice Workers Know That Can Change Your Life by Jean R. Linderman. I highly recommend this compilation of accounts from Hospice nurses, social workers and volunteers, which provided diverse perspectives about death. The author’s brevity made it manageable to take in a few accounts per night and then “sleep on them.” 
Blessing Our Goodbyes: A Gentle Guide to Being with the Dying and Preparing for Your Own Death by Kathie Quinlan. This book was a gift from Linda Quinlan, Kathie’s daughter, who was a favorite professor-turned-colleague of mine at Roberts Wesleyan College. Kathie gracefully yet passionately makes the case that death that deserves to be discussed and accepted as a natural part of life. Beauty and healing await us in these difficult conversations.
Other books on my shelf (in the order I obtained them):
Befriending Death: Henri Nouwen and a Spirituality of Dying by Michelle O’Rourke. I ordered this book as soon as I accepted the position working for Hospice. Henri is one of my heroes. If I were Catholic (he was, I’m not), and if he were to be deemed a saint (I already do, the Catholic Church has not…yet), I’d pick him as my patron. Not only do I identify with his writing, his faith journey and his personal struggles (particularly his melancholy, although this might surprise the people who say I smile so much), but he even proffered lovely and much-needed advice to me (and the masses, pardon the pun) about that second-only-to-death taboo topic: Money. Just a few weeks prior to my job change, I had sat in on a webinar hosted by the Henri Nouwen Society on my hero’s “Spirituality of Fundraising.” Some people might call those concepts mismatched, spirituality and fundraising. But both are integral to my life and career.  
The Best Care Possible: A Physician’s Quest to Transform Care Through the End of Life by Ira Byock, MD. Hospice of Orleans’ Executive Director Mary Anne Fischer handed me this book on my first day here. It got relegated to the bottom of my to-do pile as soon as I saw the events calendar. But now that I’ve gone public with this list, and with Hospice events soon taking a few weeks’ hibernation, I’m motivated to dig into what looks to be a real eye- and heart-opener!
Hospice, A Labor of Love by Glavan, Longanacre and Spivey. Getting to know the Hospice organization and philosophy, I dreamed up this combination of words myself: Hospice, A Labor of Love. And then, as I often do, I Googled it to see if someone else had already thought of it. Of course, they had. A minister, a nurse and a writer. Sounds like the start of a joke, right? No—a beautiful book, by the looks of it.
Saying Goodbye to The Iris Lady: A true-life novel by Marilyn Smith Neilans. I bought this book by a woman with Albion connections at—where else?—Bindings Bookstore, in Albion. Even though this account of her mother’s life and death in Williamsburgh, Virginia, fills a healthy 385 pages, perusal suggests it’s a quick and enjoyable read. And I do love my hometown connections.
Midwife for Souls: Spiritual Care for the Dying by Kathy Kalina. Loaned to me just last week by our head Hospice nurse, who herself helped deliver my babies at one of the local hospitals. When the birthing wing at that hospital closed, Mary came here, joining the throngs of people who identify the analogous relationship between the beginning and ending of a life. Even though this is my most recent acquisition of the bunch, I suspect I’ll be reading it soonest.

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