This book has changed my life. Maria de Hennezel has had the courage to confront the very thing we are most afraid of in the developed West - DEATH. And guess what? it's not so bad! She has talked to many people dying of AIDS and cancer, and found that what matters most is LOVE. People who know they are going to die soon feel blessed by the knowledge of the life they've led, the relationships they've had, and - hey ho - the curiosity of life on 'the other side'. She pulls no punches, it's a hard business, but I now know that if I was dying, I would know what was most important - to be near loved ones, to make peace with those from whom we have become estranged, and very importantly, to give and receive physical contact. This woman is very, very special. She admits that at times she is overwhelmed by sadness, but there is healing in crying, both for the sick and the helper. The greatest message she gives is: FACE IT! Denying death is what causes the greatest heartache. In her view, death is a kind of rebirth, a final way to make amends, to ensure a smooth passage into....whatever you believe comes next. (And you don't have to be religious). It seems on the surface a depressing subject but I have been so uplifted by it. We really need to change our attitude and stop trying to chase away the Grim Reaper. With the right mindset, he is not such a scary guy at all.
I bought this book probably for the same reason as many others, to see if I can condone myself in my care for a dying relative, or perhaps to help alleviate my own terror of death. My choice was helped by the reviews I read, & I am glad her writing has found so much favour in so many. Alas, I find it a trifle arrogant & precocious: perhaps the author didn't mean it so, or perhaps it was the translation, I don't know. But, that apart I do believe it contains much help in how the living can support the dying in their final (should that be "final"....or first??) days, and I have learnt much from this book. On that alone I would reccommend it: like so many things, it will largely be determined by what you seek within this book. I wish though I had read it earlier in the day, perhaps then I would have seized it better. And not let it fall.
This book is a must for anyone working with the dying and their families. Marie writes so compassionately and gently about her care for the dying. It is really inspiring and will hopefully give professionals and others an understanding of what the dying need and change the way we interact with them forever.
The writing style is very anecdotal and approachable for readers of this field of work as well as readers who would just widen their sense of the end of life realities which we too often shun out of our western thinking. This edition has a beautiful and poignant introduction which will be touching for UK readers in particular.