by Eric Lindner
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield, Oct. 6, 2013
Available in: Print & ebook, 232 pages
Eric Linder has given us a treasure in Hospice Voices. He has taught us how to see beyond the visible evidence of physical degeneration and grief over imminent loss to the beauty of the souls preparing to pass on. He has tapped into the power of storytelling to show us those souls as they sort through their memories and emotions in their attempt to find meaning in their life and share their insights or define the essence of their 'I' and see recognition and validation in the eyes of those, like Eric, with the patience, compassion and courage to bear witness--to listen and observe with neither prejudice nor prescription.
These stories of seven of Eric Linder's Hospice patient's encompass the full range of emotions. Laughter and joy dance with fear and bewilderment. There is as much humor as grief. In fact, humor is shown to be an essential weapon against despair.
Linder has used deftly the techniques of fiction to bring these seven unique souls alive on the page and enable them to touch the souls of the reader's thus enlarging in space and time the sphere of influence their souls will have on the world.
I'm rooting for this to be made into a movie. I think it would play well on the screen, giving these stories even further reach as well as Linder's demonstration of the power of empathy, the importance of dignity and the privilege of volunteering.
It was especially poignant to read this under my current circumstances. Living in my 82 year old mother's home for the past year has forced me to realize that our time of sharing this life has a boundary. It may be five or even ten years off but it could be one or less. It has also woken suppressed memories of the traumatic (for me) wrenching of my dad from our lives in 2005.
Those who had lived here during his twenty odd months of fighting cancer had a completely different experience than me as they had time and opportunity for those meaningful encounters, sharing of memories, acknowledging of each other's presence and impact on their lives. All of which I too could have had if I had not been in such intransigent denial that I didn't make the trip up from Southern Oregon to see him until a couple days before he died and the evening I arrived he was already asleep and he never did become fully conscious again.
I was never absolutely sure he knew I was there. The one encounter we had, the morning after I arrived, he reached up with his other hand without opening his eyes when I had taken hold of his nearest hand. He pulled me close by my elbow and kissed my mouth (something he had never done before) and patted my upper arm and said "I love you". Just like he would do with Mom.
Reading Hospice Voices has shown me that the time to prevent an equally wrenching goodbye with Mom begins now as it reveals just how to go about it.
This is yet another example of the power of story to reach places in me that had been stubbornly oblivious and transform their hard, crusty edges into a malleable substance awaiting reshaping.
From the Publishers:
As a part-time hospice volunteer, Eric Lindner provides companion care to dying strangers. They are chatterboxes and recluses, religious and irreligious, battered by cancer, congestive heart failure, Alzheimer s, old age. Some cling to life amazingly. Most pass as they expected.In telling his story, Lindner reveals the thoughts, fears, and lessons of those living the ends of their lives in the care of others, having exhausted their medical options or ceased treatment for their illnesses. In each chapter, Lindner not only reveals the lessons of lives explored in their final days, but zeroes in on how working for hospice can be incredibly fulfilling.As he s not a doctor, nurse, or professional social worker, just a volunteer lending a hand, offering a respite for other care providers, his charges often reveal more, and in more detail, to him than they do to those with whom they spend the majority of their time. They impart what they feel are life lessons as they reflect on their own lives and the prospect of their last days. Lindner captures it all in his lively storytelling.Anyone who knows or loves someone working through end of life issues, living in hospice or other end of life facilities, or dealing with terminal or chronic illnesses, will find in these pages the wisdom of those who are working through their own end of life issues, tackling life s big questions, and boiling them down into lessons for anyone as they age or face illness. And those who may feel compelled to volunteer to serve as companions will find motivation, inspiration, and encouragement.Rather than sink under the weight of depression, pity, or sorrow, Lindner celebrates the lives of those who choose to live even as they die.
What they are saying:
“This is an honest, pull no punches look at coming to terms with the one thing we will all do-die. In this well-documented and highly-readable book, Lindner proves an adept chronicler of the individual human stories that make up his journey to understand that beauty and grace can exist at the end stages of life. Lindner deftly reminds us of the power of the small things, the simple gestures and the importance of dignity for those that face a terminal situation. Throughout the book, we meet people approaching the end of life in their own individual ways, with different measures of love, faith and family. This book simultaneously opened my heart and broke it as each story taught me how hope and dignity can exist even in terminal situations. As a hospice volunteer, Lindner teaches us all that the ability to ease and bear witness to someone’s journey at the end stage of life is perhaps the ultimate gift one human can give another.”- Lee Woodruff, author of the New York Times bestsellers Those We Love Most and In an Instant“Heart attacks, strokes, and heart failure claim more lives than any other disease state. Over my career I’ve seen my share of sadness due to the ravages of end-stage cardiovascular disease. But I’ve also seen terminal patients and their loved ones wring out great joy and meaning in the final months of life. This book is joyful, insightful, witty, and truly meaningful. It tugged at my heart, tickled my funny bone, and served up numerous insights and tips that had escaped me when trying to advise patients and their families. What a marvelous set of stories that should be read by all adults. It inspires us to live life to the fullest and respect and learn from the past in order to better deal with future uncertainty.”-Roger S. Blumenthal, M.D., FAHA, FACC. Kenneth Jay Pollin Professor of Cardiology, Director, Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease and co-editor-in-chief of Preventive Cardiology: Companion to Braunwald’s Heart Disease“As a physician who cares for the chronically ill and dying I all too often see people who are alone in the midst of their suffering. Trained volunteers, like Lindner, play such an immensely important role in providing that companionship to the patient. His book reminds all of us that we are invited to attend to others-not to change them, not to judge, not to fix. We are there simply to listen and to be witnesses to the suffering and joy of others in their living and in their dying. Presence to others, as Lindner describes so poignantly in his book, is a transformative sacred act for the patient and for the companion. His book inspires all of us to enter the sacredness of living and dying with openness and courage.”-Christina M. Puchalski, MD, MS, FACP. Director, George Washington University’s Institute for Spirituality and Health, Professor, George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, and the author of A Time for Listening and Caring: Spirituality and the Care of the Chronically Ill and Dying.“This book intrigued me because of the author’s pledge to donate 100% of his profits to charity. His book moved me because it’s an illustration that there are many ways we can provide love and justice in this world. We think of love in our daily affections for those close to us. We think of justice in the work of social movements. But all religions teach that at the heart of justice is love, hospitality, and kindness to strangers. It is hard to imagine a better example of exactly that than this book, and in reading it, one comes away knowing that as in sacred scripture, Lindner has encountered and served angels themselves.”-Timothy L. Fort, PhD, JD, Everleigh Professor of Business Ethics, Kelley School of Business, Indiana University and author of Business, Integrity, and Peace: Beyond Geopolitical and Disciplinary Boundaries“Eric Lindner gives voice to those in their final days so that we may better listen, love, and learn from their example. A must read for any caregiver – volunteer or family.”-Vince Evans, MSW, Vice President of Patient Services, Hospice of the Valley
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