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Die Wise: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul Paperback – March 17, 2015
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“Stephen Jenkinson’s elegant and sorrow-freighted book brings prophetic insight rather than pastoral affirmations. A true story-man, Jenkinson paints image after image on the cave wall of his parchment. Die Wise is a formidable body of work, road-tested in ways most of us hope never to know about. Stay with it, hold the sorrow as the gift it is, savor in small, immense chunks. Every word is an invitation to trade fantasy for imagination. There isn’t a book like it.”
—Dr. Martin Shaw, author of Snowy Tower: Parzival and the Wet, Black Branch of Language
About the Author
STEPHEN JENKINSON MTS MSW is an activist, teacher, author, and farmer. He has a master's degree in theology from Harvard University and a master's degree in social work from the University of Toronto. Formerly a program director at a major Canadian hospital and medical-school assistant professor, Stephen is now a sought-after workshop leader, speaker, and consultant to palliative care and hospice organizations. He is the founder of The Orphan Wisdom School in Canada and the subject of the documentary film Griefwalker.
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Several things make this a difficult read: first, the subject matter; also, an underlying cynicism from Jenkinson, and partly the writing itself, which tends to be wordy and to wander in unexpected directions, the way one might in an impassioned conversation about a cherished subject. Jenkinson repeats his ideas many times, and spends long stretches of the book telling us what is *not* working in our society's approach to death before finally beginning to write about about how to "die wise." He is extremely critical of the modern practices that extend the lives of people with life threatening illnesses, and of palliative care as offered today. The implications and complications of all of this are revisited many times: "more time" (to live) means "more dying" (as opposed to a quick, peaceful death that is not anticipated.)
However, as the chapters go by, Jenkinson's ideas for a better way gradually emerge, and well into the book, he writes eloquently and passionately about true acceptance of death and honest conversation with the dying, as opposed to "cheerleading" and denial of what is really happening. He uses lots of imagery from nature, and occasionally quotes beautiful poetry to underscore his points.
Not the easiest read, but in the midst it all, there are touching and even beautiful moments. Recommended to readers who can be patient and flexible with the above.