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Dying: A Book of Comfort
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"A beautifully crafted collection of life-affirming passages from more than forty celebrated writers, thinkers, and religious voices of various faiths. These voices combine to speak eloquently to the heart of the reader about the nature of dying, and offer a way to provide words of Comfort for those who remain behind."
~ Ted Menten, author of the excellent book Gentle Closings
“...about dying and grief, yes, but more importantly, it is a book about understanding and healing. The deep truths and exquisite beauty will bring solace to many grieving hearts. A gem to be treasured.”
~ Rabbi Earl Grollman, author of Living When a Loved One Has Died
“A friend gave me a copy of Dying: A Book of Comfort when my son-in-law died. I passed it on to my grieving daughter, bought a copy for myself, and then bought five more copies, so I would have something meaningful and healing to give to friends who were facing their own or others’ deaths. We never know when death will come to those we love. This valuable resource deserves a place on everyone’s shelf as a compendium of thoughtful reflections — by famous and lesser-known writers — that affirm life even as they help us cope with death.”
~ Sally Wendkos Olds, co-author of Human Development
I was originally asked to do this book by Barbara Greenman, editor of Doubleday's Literary Guild book club. Her long-time friend was dying and she wanted to know how best to help--wanted something positive. My experience helping my father when he was dying from lung cancer had made me realize that there was little help available for people trying to do this on their own. Hospices are wonderful, in my personal experience, but they aren't there late at night when you're on your own and flying blind. So this project was a labor of love for both Barbara and me.
Nobody teaches us how to die, or how to help someone die; nor how to grieve, or how best to help the grieving. My emphasis in collecting material for this anthology was on the emotional, not the practical, aspects of death and grieving. I looked for selections that offer meaningful insights and experiences, comforting words and stories, some guidance, much reassurance.
This is not a how-to book, but I chose selections around several basic themes: the intensity with which life is experienced by people who are dying (and those who help them die), what it is like (emotionally) to die, how to help someone die, how to say good-bye,what to expect from grief, and how to console the bereaved. There are special sections on mourning the death of a parent, the death of a child, a death by suicide, or a violent, unexpected death. There are selections about near-death experiences, about life after death, and about life and death. There are prayers from many faiths as well as selections to comfort those with no religious faith. There are also selections suitable for reading at funerals and memorial services. All of the selections are short, because people who are grieving (including people who are dying) are often unable to concentrate on anything long.
This book was first published as a Literary Guild original, in an edition so lovely that both Barbara and the art director felt that of all the books they had worked on, this was the one they were proudest of. (You can't imagine how rare an experience this is for an author.) The Guild edition was not available in bookstores. Warner Books brought out a trade paperback edition, which was available in bookstores, and which adapted the original Guild design to a slightly larger format.
Frankly, although the book was fine in its paperback format, it wasn't as perfect a gift book, and as my Warner editor pointed out, Warner did not specialize in "backlist" titles (those that sell quietly, year after year). When the Warner edition went out of print, the Guild agreed to print a special edition, because I was getting e-mails of frustration from people who were used to buying copies of the book to have on hand for when a friend experienced a death in the family. I am happy to report that the original Guild hardcover edition, with the lovely jacket (a soft yellow matte finish, with a small shining work of art, a bridge across water, center front), is now available again. The content is the same in both books. I have copies of both the paperback and the Guild hardcover for sale, but personally, I prefer the Guild edition. The paperback for sale on Amazon is a print on demand edition, which is not as nice as the original paperback, much less the hardcover for sale here.
The cover art is The White Bridge by John Henry Twachtman, courtesy of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.
Dying: A Book of Comfort
(healing words on loss and grief)
“This remarkable collection, coming from personal experience and wide reading, will help many
find the potential of growth through loss.” ~ Dame Cicely Saunders, founder of the hospice movement
in Washingtonian magazine