Final stage caregiving: two very different books about life, death and spirituality converge
Two books I’ve recently read make an odd pair, but a pair none the less, because both are about living, dying, and acceptance. On the surface, they are quite opposite in their take on spirituality. Yet, in the end, they come to the same conclusion - that a spiritual connection is vital for most people in order to accept the concept of death.
Don’t Tell Me It’s Okay
“Don’t Tell Me It’s Okay,” by Sue Doble, is a raw, barebones story of a woman suddenly widowed after 40 years of marriage. Her fight to come to terms with the death of her husband makes for compelling reading. She’s frank about her flaws and the bitterness she had to work through.
Doble’s intense words are “down home” in style, but her anger at God and the way many people thought she should grieve – which was different from the way she was grieving - make for a readable and touching story with lessons for those of us who want to help a person who has experienced deep loss.
Doble’s troubled childhood, and some of the early marital problems she and her husband George struggled through, are touched on but not explained. More information in that area could make the book more satisfying, however her reluctance to go into those details must be respected. Even without details on how her world view was formed, her journey through her doubts about her God and her future are vividly drawn. This is a Christian centered book, and Doble’s Christianity is of an evangelical nature.
As Doble says, “Grief is really messy. I do know one thing for sure, and that is without God I would not have made it…You do not ever know the depth of another person’s pain.”
“Don’t Tell Me It’s Okay” is available on Amazon.com and Amazon.com.ca.
Last Acts of Kindness
“Last Acts of Kindness: Lessons for the Living from the Bedsides of the Dying,” by Judith Redwing Keyssar, is a gorgeous, lyrical work stressing the impermanent nature of life and naturalness of the death process.
Keyssar, an oncology nurse, is a “midwife” to the dying. She uses that term to underscore her belief in the life cycle, and to highlight our culture’s fear of death, which she says (and I agree with her) is our culter’s “final taboo.”
Each chapter is headed by a quote from a song, a poem or any one of many spiritual traditions. She has studied the death traditions of many cultures, finding comfort in a cross section of spiritual practices that help guide loved ones through the death experience.
Keyssar’s book is a collection of stories about people who have died in the hospital, at home and in nursing homes or other facilities such as a hospice home. Her manner of ushering people through the transition of death is to see the beauty of life from birth through death and to honor the wishes of the dying.
Keyssar is strong on the hospice belief that we should be allowed to make choices as our lives come to an end, and that a dignified death is possible for most of us. She incorporates many religious traditions into her experiences as she helps people go through the process in the atmosphere they choose.
“Last Acts” can help people come to the acceptance of a basic truth – we all will die. She stresses that there is a point where humans cannot stop the death process, therefore we may as well “cooperate” in making this experience as meaningful as possible. God is a big part of this book, so I believe it will appeal to many people with a spiritual bent, whatever their religion. The book is available on Amazon.com.