- Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: Nazca Plains Corporation, The (May 16, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1610981995
- ISBN-13: 978-1610981996
- Product Dimensions: 8 x 0.8 x 10 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 13 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,657,831 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Amateur's Guide to Death and Dying: Enhancing the End of Life Paperback – May 16, 2012
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I am an atheist. So hard core an atheist that I have started an atheist "Meet up group" on Whidbey Island, WA, where I live. Some of my best friends are religious believers. I do volunteer work at a local Lutheran Church.
When I was in my forties, I thought I would die from a heart attack, because my father (whom I detested) had died of his second heart attack, at the age of 43. To my surprise, I am now 69 years old, and surprisingly healthy, though I can feel body parts breaking down. Nevertheless, I can feel that I am dying. As I work out at the gym, or in my garden, my mind goes into denial. (See Ernst Becker's underground classic book, "DENIAL OF DEATH"). My mind also says, "Yes, you will, Stephen. Are you ready?"
I consider the book excellent, even though I hated the experience of reading it and dealing with the topic of my demise, and felt great reluctance to do all the tasks and exercises. (To give myself some credit, I have, before encountering, much less reading, this book, made out my will; filled out a batch of advanced directives, though I need to check what I have done carefully against the list-recommendations in your book; written my eulogy and told my wife and daughter I wish it to be sent to the local newspaper (it defiantly and arrogantly proclaims my atheism), indicated I want my body disposed of in the cheapest and simplest way; and told my daughter she can do whatever she wants in the way of memorial services to get closure. I have identified several "last projects" I want to do before I die and I am working on finishing them fairly expeditiously. (Excuse me, while I pat myself on the back.)
The only criticism I have is that my aging mind could not well keep track of or remember all the names, circumstances, and personalities of the people in the group introduced in "Check In," in the first chapter, I might write up a concise "cheat sheet" "cast of characters" that might be included with future editions of the book as a loose sheet or pull-out or rip out card for the convenience of fumbly-minded people such as myself, and send it to Richard as an attachment. As others have noted, a "bookmark" to be included with the book might be useful and appreciated.
About the only other minor cavil I have is that Woody Allen (quotes from him open many of the chapters) really rubs me the wrong way, but no biggee.
I intend to read the book again with more concentration and diligence, I hope before it is too late. Although it's obviously not a popular product/project to get people to deal with death in advance of its final approach, I hope to get at least one group of people together for a seminar led by Richard before it is too late for him and/or for me. So if you live on Whidbey Island, WA, and are game to participate, please contact me at eman underline modnar at yahoo dot com.
I feel that way about this book. I really enjoyed it. I will go back through it a few times as I think, as some of the characters said, they didn't get as much out of it the first time especially in the early sessions as they had to work through some of their issues. I don't think that was my problem. I just think that there is so much to absorb and each time going through it, I could improve my absorbsion and get more out of each exercise.
Great job Richard! I would say it is one of the best self-help books one could read. By learning how to die, I can learn how to live better.
The chapters of "The Amateur's Guide" are structured around ten sessions of the death and dying support groups that the author leads professionally in Northern California. Ten fictional group members, composites of actual participants, interact with one another, telling their stories, and engaging the material that Wagner and other experts present. Forms are also provided for us, the readers, to respond to the materials, provide feedback, even evaluate the contents and process of the workshop.
Among the death and dying-related subjects the book/workshop addresses are fear and avoidance of the reality of death, dealing with regrets and old wounds, end-of -life documents and preparations like advance directives, wills and trusts, who to notify, distribution of your possessions, etc., spirituality in death and dying, sexuality and intimacy in the dying process, and what someone's last weeks and days are actually like.
Reading the responses of the various group members to the presentations and assignments helps to make this material real. But doing the assignments yourself makes death and dying all the more palpable. I was surprised at how deeply moved--and disturbed--I was as I did the various exercises, for example, writing my own obituary and describing the last weeks and days of my own life. This may not be true for everyone, but for me, engaging the prospect of my death was a sobering experience. But I feel I am better for it.
No book is perfect, of course. For the first half of the book, I found it almost impossible to keep the ten members of the group straight in my head. I finally made a crib sheet with the name, age, and a brief description of each, which I printed out and kept inside the front cover. The publisher should send out a bookmark with such information on it when someone buys a copy of The Amateur's Guide so that readers can consult it as each group member begins to "talk." The book is also pretty large--the cover is eight by ten inches and the book is an inch thick--which made it hard for me to take on the subway, where I do a lot of my reading.
But this is quibbling. "The Amateur's Guide to Death and Dying" makes a valuable contribution to helping readers come to terms with an aspect of life that too many of us tend to avoid.
(These comments are taken from a review that appeared in the July 2012 issue of the newsletter of the Grail in the USA.)