Advice for the Dying (and Those Who Love Them): A Practical Perspective on Death Hardcover – 2 Aug. 2018
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- Hardcover : 256 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1760632708
- ISBN-13 : 978-1760632700
- Product Dimensions : 14.5 x 2.5 x 22.5 cm
- Publisher : Allen & Unwin; Main Edition (2 Aug. 2018)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: 737,288 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer reviews:
Sallie Tisdale's elegantly understated new book pretends to be a user's guide when in fact it's a profound meditation. It also pretends to be about how to die. Actually, it's about how to live. -- David Shields, bestselling author of REALITY HUNGER
Sallie Tisdale's life experiences and down-to-earth wisdom takes readers beyond the paralysing dread of death and advances profound opportunities for intimacy, connection and completeness at life's end. -- Dr Michael Barbato, author of CARING FOR THE DYING
[a] hard, clear-eyed look at death and dying, Dublin Review of Books
An easy, chatty writer who never says anything the way you're expecting, which makes reading her a pleasure., Boston Globe
Her essays unfold their subjects and stories with remarkable precision, allowing us, gradually, to see and feel for the people she describes., New Yorker
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ST is a Zen Buddhist but she is not spreading the tenets of Buddhism, only those aspects that help her come to face death and ponder about it with equanimity and stare at it with dignity. It is true, she says, that everything about this book is theory for she has not yet died.
Tracing humanity’s experience and fear of death, and the ubiquitous death rituals in every culture, ST explains why death transfixes us so. From the point of view of the dying, these are all efforts in futility. The person about to die has no concern (or shouldn’t have) for what happens to hi for the ‘him’ in him is gone. He leaves behind a corpse where ‘he’ once lived. Even monuments of remembrance are forgotten after three or four generations. ST recalls the oft-quoted wisdom of Epicurus, exhorting us not to fear death – ‘for where death is, we are not, where we are, death is not’.
Death is a fact that we all have to face and we can hardly have a say in it. ST says, ‘We can plan for many elements of dying. We can write a will, decide what music we want to hear and how to dispose of our bodies. But even if I choose assistance in dying and drink the medication with my own hands, I haven’t chosen to die. Death is choosing me.’ She warns against the hubris in many escapist theories – including one that goes by the name of ‘terror management theory’.
Another helpful segment of the book deals with the idea of the ‘good death’. Here she manages our expectations very well. ‘We are animals, our bodies fail, and we cannot stop dying.’ Death is an event, but dying goes on a bit longer, and in the chapter, ‘Last Months’, ST discusses the state of dying towards the end. ‘Dying is psychological work, emotional work, spiritual work. The simplest things take time; everything once taken for granted changes, and a person either gets sad or gets mad or settles into a new kind of peace.’
ST discusses hospice care and people at death’s door. There is a lot to know about hospices and the kind of care required and expected. Not everyone who is faced with the choice of sending a dying relative to a hospice or to be kept at home know what the patient (the dying) needs. ST then brings us to the point specifically – all too often our loved one is dying and we want him to live. ST reminds us that it is not about what we want. It is what the dying wants and needs.
We may have to change the current terminology to change our attitudes. We are not ‘pulling the plug’ when we take a dying person off life support. We are releasing him from ‘excessive technology and invasive treatments. When we allow death to happen, we are not killing people, we are caring for them. We are loving them’. The opposite is nothing but foolish, selfish acts to satisfy our needs rather than that of the dying person, and it invariably proves not only futile, but prolongs the suffering of the patient.
The appendices are useful. The first is ‘Preparing a Death Plan’, helping us plan ahead in the event of a quick and sudden death. The second deals with ‘Advance Directives. The third deals with organ donations. The fourth with assisted death. Give them some urgent and thorough consideration.