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Final Gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs, and Communications of the Dying Hardcover – March, 1992

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Editorial Reviews

From Kirkus Reviews

Impressive insights into the experience of dying, offered by two hospice nurses with a gift for listening. The ``final gifts'' of the title are the comfort and enlightenment offered by the dying to those attending them, and in return, the peace and reassurance offered to the dying by those who hear their needs. Callanan and Kelley describe a phenomenon they term ``Nearing Death Awareness''--which resembles somewhat the near-death experience sometimes reported by individuals revived after being clinically dead. Nearing Death Awareness, however, develops slowly, and the dying person seemingly drifts for a time between two worlds. Attempts by the dying to communicate about this awareness, often expressed in symbolic language or gestures, may be misunderstood by those around them, who dismiss the expressions as mere ``confusion.'' According to the authors, dying messages fall into two categories: descriptions of what they are experiencing (such as the places they see, the presence of others no longer alive, or their knowledge of when death will occur) and requests for what the dying need for a peaceful death (a reconciliation, for instance, or the removal of some barrier to departure). To illustrate, Callanan and Kelley include numerous examples of Nearing Death Awareness from their years of caring for the dying. And they offer practical advice not only to involved family members but also to professional caregivers on how to recognize, understand, and respond to a dying person's messages. No lugubriousness or false cheerfulness here, but acute observations and astute advice on a difficult topic. -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.


“Treasure–clear, authentic, responsible, and profoundly moving.” —Sandol Stoddard, author of The Hospice Movement

“Beautifully written, illuminating and reassuring…Final Gifts is truly a gift to us all.” —Judy Tatelbaum, author of The Courage to Grieve

“These richly told stories enable us to respond to the dying in new and authentic ways.” —Ira R. Byock, M.D., author of Dying Well: The Prospect for Growth at the End of Life --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 221 pages
  • Publisher: Poseidon Pr; 1st Edition, 2nd Printing edition (March 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671700065
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671700065
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (655 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #203,695 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

242 of 244 people found the following review helpful By Quaker Annie on June 27, 2000
Format: Paperback this book!
Over the past few years, when faced with the information that someone I'd known was dying, I did - nothing. Retreating, I was terrified of my own mortality and of what I might do if I were around someone who was dying. Would I say the wrong thing or nothing at all? Would I cry, or do something to inadvertently hurt them? What is dying like? This book is great as a comforting instruction manual on what happens, what to do, and what not to do.
It begins with information about what happens to the body when it is in the process of dying, then moves into experiences the authors have had in dealing with people who are dying, or whose loved ones are dying. They have helpful information throughout the book for those, like me, who were unsure about what to say or do.
They include individual stories about messages people send when they are approaching death and how not to miss them; seeing people who have already died and what that may mean; symbolic dreams and how to let the dreamer find the meaning; choosing a time to die (not by suicide); waiting for a person to arrive or an event to happen.
Family and friends often ignore this precious information. It seems illogical, far out, too much like stories about abduction by aliens. We brush them off as hallucinations, caused by denial or possibly drug-induced.
When I first heard volunteers, nurses and others who work in hospice tell stories of people who have similar Nearing Death Experiences (not to be confused with "Near Death Experiences"), I was dubious. However, in my readings and hospice volunteer work, I find that these stories are universal, timeless and not as new age-y as I'd thought.
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174 of 176 people found the following review helpful By Kelle Quist on May 31, 1999
Format: Paperback
My father was diagnosed 4 years ago with colon cancer. He endured several operations, many chemotherapy treatments and although he fought to live, he was told in December 98 he had 90 days to live. My aunt bought this book for my mother in December. All 5 children have read it and participated in my fathers death (he passed away on April 23, 1999). This book saved us so much pain and helped the grieving process more than I can say. My dad's final journey was exactly like so many of the trips described in this wonderful book. We helped him pack the car and go home. We miss him terribly but I now believe there is a place much greater than this. (I didn't start reading the book until the afternoon my father was dying and I couldn't believe the things I was seeing before my eyes).
I feel I learned about a "big secret" that mysterious thing called death. I will never be afraid to go once my time comes. Buy a copy for everyone you know is dealing with a terminal illness. This is not just a book for cancer patients or elderly people.
These two woman (and the hospice program) deserve a medal. Thank you for soothing our broken hearts. Bless you all!
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110 of 114 people found the following review helpful By Julie Jordan Scott on January 5, 2004
Format: Paperback
"Final Gifts" was suggested to me after I spoke to an old friend who called to talk to me after being told he had a week to live. There were many gems within which helped me to communicate well with him and his wife (another close friend) in his final week of life.
I am very grateful I was able to read this as my friend was dying instead of after he was gone. I strongly suggest people begin reading this book as soon as they know death is possible: before it is imminent.
We need to demystify the dying process and stop being afraid of it. This book does a great service in that direction.
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65 of 66 people found the following review helpful By Lisa Wagner Fields on December 13, 1999
Format: Paperback
My mother died of ovarian cancer at age 62 in June '98 after 8 long years of fighting. One of the hospice nurses recommended this book before she went into hospice care. I read it, my sister read it and my mother's husband read it before my mom died. Words cannot express the comfort, knowledge and insight it gave us. My sister and I were with mom everynight at the hospice for about 1-1/2 months. We hung onto her every word. Don't ever let anyone tell you that what the dying are saying is nonsence and gibberish. She said some really amazing things that, thanks to the enlightenment of the book, we completely understood. It was uncanny. Every family member should read this book if possible BEFORE the end comes. It helped us more than words can say. Also, I must say hospice care is the way to go, it is SO much better than a hospital. My aunt and Grandmother died in hospitals, of cancer. If we had only known then what we know now.......
God bless all of you who are struggling with this issue. I wish you strength.
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71 of 73 people found the following review helpful By Kellie on May 27, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Final Gifts is the most practical, empowering book I've ever read.

What I appreciate most about the book is that it is empowering and comforting to both the loved ones of the dying and the dying themselves. In fact, I own 3 copies of Final Gifts and I loan them out to friends, family and acquaintances when I hear they have a loved one who is dying. To a person, they have returned the book to me and said it dramatically changed their lives and their perspective on how to approach their loved one and his/her death.

The book is about the gifts that the dying person has to pass on to the survivors (and vice versa), even when it may seem the dying person is incoherent or drugged beyond understanding (this is often when he/she needs to communicate most). In a nutshell, Final Gifts encourages caretakers and visitors to pay attention to the communications of the dying, to learn the communication methods of the dying (they often use symbols to communicate--the authors explain how to decipher these), and to acknowledge that the dying need those around him/her to be honest about the situation and encourage openness in their communication.

The book is also very comforting in its description of numerous case studies observed by the two authors. They explain what the dying experience (it's actually very positive) and how to let go.

My mom was the primary caretaker of her mother when she was dying in 1984. My mom read this book 15 years after her mother's death, and even after so much time, my mom found comfort in the answers and explanations she discovered in the book. As she read each chapter, my mom would comment to me that she found many connections between her experience with her mother and what she learned in the book...
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