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As I Lay Dying: Meditations Upon Returning Paperback – April 1, 2003

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Editorial Reviews Review

Every night as we lay down to sleep we practice a form of death, according to Richard Neuhaus in As I Lay Dying. The rhythm of life and death is indeed as natural as the rhythm of waking and sleeping. But few of us know it as literally as does Neuhaus, who found himself drifting in and out of consciousness after a tumor ruptured his intestines and the subsequent botched surgery caused internal hemorrhaging. One night he was visited by two beings, which he calls angels, who assured him that "Everything is ready now." Dramatic as all this sounds, As I Lay Dying is not so much Neuhaus's near-death-experience tale as it is a Christian discussion of death from the vantage point of a Catholic priest who heard death knocking at his door.

This is not a feel-good book about the white light and smiling family members at the end of the tunnel. Relying on Scripture, Catholic doctrine, and the words of poets and famous writers, Neuhaus ponders questions such as: Can the soul live on, separate from the body? Is it possible to have death with dignity? How is it that we can be propelled into a tailspin of grief over one death, but be indifferent to the ethnic slaughter of millions in central Africa? Is there really life after death? Christians who are close to death, whether it be their own or that of a loved one, may find this a useful companion, if only for Neuhaus's willingness to shed light on our darkest fears while being brave enough to not know all the answers. --Gail Hudson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

"I almost died." With those three words that form the theme of his latest work, Neuhaus, a Catholic priest and former Lutheran pastor, recalls his brush with death and his thoughts as he was passing through it. Readers in search of sure answers and sweet comfort about the fate that awaits every human being may not be interested in this series of reflections. But those willing to join Neuhaus in pondering the complexities of mortality and the Christian promise of eternal life will emerge all the richer from his sojourn into mystery. Seven years ago, Neuhaus nearly died when a tumor ruptured in his intestines, wreaking havoc on his body and plunging him to the brink of death. As he lay dying in an intensive-care unit, he became keenly aware of his condition, particularly the possibility of his soul separating from his body, and of the reactions of those closest to him. His musings, mercifully free of minutiae from his medical chart, are wholly honest and hardly the stuff of those death-and-dying books that seek to remove all fear from every person's passage out of this world. But they also offer some succor to people of faith. For example, in analyzing his own "near-death experience," in which two seemingly heavenly beings inform him that "everything is ready now," Neuhaus lifts the veil ever so slightly into the life beyond. His report is worth examining by all who have considered their own death or faced that of another.

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; Reprint edition (April 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465049311
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465049318
  • Product Dimensions: 4.6 x 0.4 x 7.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #173,936 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

75 of 78 people found the following review helpful By Jack E. Buttram on April 3, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Richard John Neuhaus is the distinguished editor of "First Things" magazine and writes often on many important subjects. His seminal work on the "Public Square" is one I appreciate particularly as he argues that public media today seem to try their best to 'marginalize' any view that comes out Christian -- they think we Christians have no place on the "public square." Obvioudly he takes no truck with that -- and says so.
But in this book, he encounters a different foe -- Death. And he came away a man with a greater understanding of what it is to live and what it is to die -- or nearly die. His doctors had apparently missed a cancerous tumor in his colon -- and he nearly missed living through the experience of emergency surgery -- two of them for the spleen was nicked and internal bleeding required a second surgery on top of the first. All of this meant a *long* recovery and he recounts it with clarity as well as humor.
Having been through a similar (but not so drastic) experience of recovering from major surgery and being hooked up to lots of bleeping and pulsating machines for lengthy periods -- I very much identified with his narrative. He gets it right.
The book is only about 170 pages or so and can be read in a sitting or two. The author rises to crystalline prose at times and I found it to be not only an instructive but enjoyable read. He is not a proponent of the 'near death' experiences exploited by TV shows etc. --- but reveals his own experience with clarity and truth, and believablity.
You'll come away from reading this book with thankfulness for the life you have -- and a determination to live it more fully. That is, I think, the job of a Gospel messenger -- and while this is not a 'devotional' book in that sense -- he lays out very squarely what this experience meant to him, and what clear thinking about that "inevitable event" that happens to us all, ought to mean to us.
Jack Buttram
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41 of 41 people found the following review helpful By E. Kostendt on August 21, 2004
Format: Paperback
"I almost died." That phrase in particular characterizes the style of "As I Lay Dying." If you are familiar with Fr. Neuhaus's books, you'll know what I'm talking about: There is no hand-holding, no reassurance, no "it'll be okay." The only consolation the author offers us is the truth: facing death is scary, even for the faithful. Its normal, and you can deal with it.

Father describes his bewilderment, his helplessness, and his embarrassment, in a matter-of-fact way: don't read this book expecting to hear the violins which so often accompany the telling of near-death experiences. The only truly honest reflection on this matter I've ever read.
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47 of 48 people found the following review helpful By John Zxerce on June 6, 2002
Format: Hardcover
First of all, I'm very skeptical about anyone being visited by super-natural beings. Indeed, I believe it is wise be skeptical about those kinds of reports. It is essential to test, and critique those accounts. However, with that said, I am also a person who has very much enjoyed the previous writing of Neuhaus - especially `The Naked Public Square'. As a result, I wasn't sure how to take this book. Here are some thoughts.........
--Someone once said, `death is an interesting statistic, it's one out of one'. We will all face death and as a result our awareness of death can be both existentially shocking as well as an intense motivator for pursuing ultimate reality and religious truth. Neuhaus does a great job of guiding the reader to this realization.
--Neuhaus writes a book, which is dramatically different from books like `Embraced by the Light'. It is a book not about warm and subjective feelings, but it is about how we face the difficulty of dieing. How do people who believe very different things deal with death and react to dieing? Where can we find comfort? What is true about the after-life? These are complex questions requiring honest answers. Neuhaus is honest, but I wish he had been more specific regarding how he answers these questions.
--I do appreciate his non-sentimental writing and his willingness to write a book as personal as this one. There's no question this book ends up being inspirational, however, I'm still not sure on exactly what Neuhaus prescribes for the problem of the human condition. Is it religion, relationship, forgiveness, faith? Since he is a Catholic his religious convictions do come through, but if I had my way, I wish he was a bit more theological in his conclusions.
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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 31, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Fr. Neuhaus has done us a great favor. He has devoted his considerable talent and energy to writing a book whose subject we would rather deny than meditate on. He has left us with challenging questions which only we can answer for ourselves about that most mysterious and certain occurence - death. He has taught us that meditating on death should change our life - but that is our challenge and our choice. Finally he gives us a preview of how the mind works when one is seriously ill. I hope my mind works like his when my turn comes.
When Neuhaus turns his incisive intellect and fine writing style to any subject , serious readers will not be disappointed for what is difficult is made plain with insight and wit.
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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 28, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Oh dear. What a travasty that the the political blinders of a previous reviewer kept him from seeing what an extraordinary, moving, and deeply humane book As I Lay Dying is. This book is an astonishingly suggestive meditation on the limits, blessings and mysteries of human finitude. Father Neuhaus lovingly suspends us at the meeting point of our deepest hopes and anxieties and asks us to open ourselves to being vulnerable: to others, to ourselves and ultimately to the One in whom there is finally life and life abundant. As I Lay Dying is remarkable in its patience, subtlety and humility. Highly, highly recommended.
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