Thursday, January 12, 2012

Book Review: Final Gifts

I began the new year by reading the book Final Gifts: Understanding the special awareness, needs, and communications of the dying by Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelley.  When my husband saw the cover of the book he suggested that I may want to consider a career change -- what you do is so depressing he said.  Yes, an element of my work is sad, but the majority of my work feels great because I help people take control and put life in order.  However, I would agree that reviewing books such as Final Gifts should be limited.

While I enjoyed the book, it was extremely depressing.  If you were to pick it up I would recommend reading the the first chapter, skimming chapters two through fifteen, and reading the final chapter, sixteen, titled Nearing Death Awareness: Practical Uses.  The bulk of the book contains moving stories of people approaching the end of life.  While moving, I did not get a great deal of value out of the stories.  I did however value the final chapter.  Especially the suggestion that if you do not know what to say, say nothing at all an instead offer a hug or hold a hand.  Displays of affection may be far better than words.

One other useful nugget I took from the book was that if you are interacting with a dying person or his or her caregivers and want to lend a hand, be specific.  Don't say "if you need something call".  Instead say "I'm picking up Chinese for take-out tonight, what would you like me to get for you?".  People facing the end of life, and their caregivers, do not need the extra assignment of trying to find a useful outlet for your kindness.  Be specific, and it is a lot easier for them to say yes.

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