On Living

On Living

Book - 2016
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A hospice chaplain passes on wisdom on giving meaning to life, from those taking leave of it. As a hospice chaplain, Kerry Egan didn't offer sermons or prayers, unless they were requested; in fact, she found, the dying rarely want to talk about God, at least not overtly. Instead, she discovered she'd been granted an invaluable chance to witness firsthand what she calls the "spiritual work of dying"--The work of finding or making meaning of one's life, the experiences it's contained and the people who have touched it, the betrayals, wounds, unfinished business, and unrealized dreams. Instead of talking, she mainly listened: to stories of hope and regret, shame and pride, mystery and revelation and secrets held too long. Most of all, though, she listened as her patients talked about love--love for their children and partners and friends; love they didn't know how to offer; love they gave unconditionally; love they, sometimes belatedly, learned to grant themselves. This isn't a book about dying--it's a book about living. And Egan isn't just passively bearing witness to these stories. An emergency procedure during the birth of her first child left her physically whole but emotionally and spiritually adrift. Her work as a hospice chaplain healed her, from a brokenness she came to see we all share. Each of her patients taught her something--how to find courage in the face of fear or the strength to make amends; how to be profoundly compassionate and fiercely empathetic; how to see the world in grays instead of black and white. In this poignant, moving, and beautiful book, she passes along all their precious and necessary gifts.
Publisher: [London] :, Penguin Life, an imprint of Penguin Books,, [2016]
ISBN: 9780241297278
Branch Call Number: 170.44 EGA
Characteristics: 208 pages ; 21 cm

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A beautiful book that helps us answer the big questions about life and death, and the smaller ones in between. The book gives us the one of a kind perspective of a woman whose job it is to walk people through the ends of their lives and hopefully help them find some peace. We're invited into the lives of people as they reflect on their most important stories and relationships and confront the defining choices of their lives. It gently leads us all to ask ourselves what we will think of as we come to the end of our lives? And how does that inform how we live now?

ArapahoeJane Aug 15, 2017

What an an enjoyable and poignant book. The author, a hospice chaplain, related stories she'd heard from patients and what she learned from them. A few times, the author's own religious beliefs (which are irrelevant in her communication with patients) were challenged through the experiences she had with patients.

The book magnified the fundamental importance of listening (and, sometimes, asking questions to help others find their own meaning). It was a beautiful and powerful reminder that being present is not about sharing one's own view.

This book made me miss my days as a volunteer hospice chaplain. There is such beauty to be found at the end of life.

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feralranger
Apr 08, 2017

I liked this book enough that I surrendered my borrowed copy from the Library and bought my own.
The Chicago review of books took the words right out of my mouth:

“A unique gem of a book... Wise without being preachy, warm without being cloying, Kerry Egan offers a delightful, humorous, and ultimately joyful perspective on what it means to be alive.”

s
spiderfelt_0
Jan 29, 2017

It is difficult to find words to fully describe how powerful I found the insights in this book. There is so much wisdom contained in this slender volume. I will certainly be pressing it into the hands of everyone I love. In the spirit of Being Mortal and When Breath Becomes Air, this is a book to treasure for the sake of understanding and appreciating this one precious life.

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spiderfelt_0
Jan 29, 2017

"Living things continue to develop until the moment they die, whether or not anyone else recognizes it." p112

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spiderfelt_0
Jan 29, 2017

Attempting to find or make meaning is perhaps the central task of the spiritual life. p169

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