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The Four Things That Matter Most - 10th Anniversary Edition: A Book About Living Hardcover – June 10, 2014
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Caroline Myss Author of Sacred Contracts, Why People Don't Heal and How They Can, and Anatomy of the Spirit The Four Things That Matter Most is a book of commonsense wisdom that has the power to dynamically change your life. It is a pleasure to recommend a book that encourages you to transform the quality of your life in simple ways that actually work.
Maggie Callanan Coauthor of Final Gifts A tender read I highly recommend. The Four Things That Matter Most offers simple but solid solutions for healing our complex and fragile relationships -- wisdom that will surely enrich our lives.
Larry Dossey, M.D. Author of Healing Beyond the Body, Reinventing Medicine, and Healing Words For anyone who believes that years of therapy are required for transforming relationships with others, this book will come as a pleasant surprise. Great wisdom has always been simple -- that is why it is elusive -- and great wisdom is what this book contains.
Joan Halifax, Ph.D. Author, Buddhist teacher, anthropologist, founder and director of Ojai Foundation, and founder, Upaya Foundation Ira Byock's compassionate and important work in the field of dying has given him the four great treasures of love and freedom that all of us can use throughout our life. This wonderful book opens the doors to these jewels of compassion.
Zorba Paster, M.D. Author of The Longevity Code, host of public radio's Zorba Paster on Your Health, and host of the public television special How to Live a Long, Sweet Life The Four Things That Matter Most provides simple, insightful words and stories that move the heart and the soul. Dr. Byock shows us a graceful way to nurture relationships and heal those that need mending.
"This beautiful book, full of wisdom and warmth, teaches us how to protect and preserve our most valuable possessions--the relationships with those we love. It shows that the things that matter definitely aren’t ‘things,’ and how to empower your life in the right direction." (Dr. Stephen R. Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People)
From the Inside Flap
"This beautiful book, full of wisdom and warmth, teaches us how to protect and preserve our most valuable possessions--the relationships with those we love. It shows that the things that matter definitely arent "things," and how to empower your life in the right direction."
--Dr. Stephen R. Covey, author, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
"The 4 Things That Matter Most provides simple, insightful words and stories that move the heart and the soul. Dr. Byock shows us a graceful way to nurture relationships and heal those that need mending."
--Zorba Paster, M.D., author of The Longevity Code, host of public radio's On Your Health, and host of the public television special, How to Live a Long, Sweet Life [airing post-Thanksgiving]
"A tender read I highly recommend -- The Four Things That Matter Most offers simple but solid solutions for healing our complex and fragile relationships -- wisdom that will surely enrich our lives."
--Maggie Callanan, co-author of the bestselling Final Gifts
"For anyone who believes that years of therapy are required for transforming relationships with others, this book will come as a pleasant surprise. Great wisdom has always been simple - that is why it is elusive - and great wisdom is what this book contains.
--Larry Dossey, MD author of HEALING BEYOND THE BODY, REINVENTING MEDICINE, and The New York Times bestselling HEALING WORDS
"The Four Things that Matter Most is a book of common sense wisdom that has the power to dynamically change your life. It is a pleasure to recommend a book that encourages you to transform the quality of your life in simple ways that actually work."
-- Caroline Myss, author of Sacred Contracts and Anatomy of the Spirit
"Ira Byock's compassionate and important work in the field of dying has given him the four great treasures of love and freedom that all of us can use throughout our life. This wonderful book opens the doors to these jewels of compassion"
-- Joan Halifax, Ph.D. author, Buddhist teacher, anthropologist, former research assistant to Joseph Campbell, founder and director of Ojai Foundation and founder, Upaya Foundation --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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I haven't spent time with her like that for 17 years.
Over the years there have been so many misunderstandings, cross words, mean letters, siblings fighting and talking about each other and I honestly thought it was hopeless. I thought I would never see my mother again. Ever. It was a MESS!
But, it became obvious with lots of work and support over the years that what I wanted most was to tell my mom I love her and how much I appreciate all she has done for me. My severe depression was based on the thought that I literally thought that was impossible.
A few weeks ago, I (well, we) decided it didn't matter the outcome; I had to tell her anyway. I was prepared for the worst. I wrote out the scenarios and read them to my husband and therapist. They helped me visualize and come to grips with how I would handle whatever the outcome would be. Of course part of me really wanted it to go well but no one thought it would.
6 days ago, while preparing I found this book online. I immediately went to the library and got it (only because I couldn't buy it in time! We were leaving in 3 days!!)
I read the entire book that night. OH my gosh. I cried and cried and cried. I prayed that I would have an experience that was good. But I knew I probably wouldn't. But something Dr. Byock said several times about how your loved ones will always live within you struck me. And I knew that is exactly what was driving me crazy.
I KNEW I loved my mom. I KNEW she had done so much for me and THAT'S what I wanted in my heart. That's it. I don't want anymore sadness and hate. I don't want to be confused. I love my mom and that's what I want to feel in my heart and that's what I wanted her to feel in her heart.
So, I had already written a letter to her, but I adapted it to incorporate the 4 things. I bought some beautiful paper and I decorated it. I printed some pictures of her grandchildren. I did it all with only love. All I thought about was I love my mom and even if she can't hear it I know it. I love her and I forgive her and I pray she forgives me. I don't care what anyone else in the family thinks. Maybe she won't want to see me. I'll leave her the letter. I'll put it on the doorstep. I'll pray that someone will give it to her. If she can't read it I'll pray that someone will read it to her. And if not, I made a copy for myself to remind me of how much I love my mom and appreciate all she did for me.
I read the book again the next day (5 days ago). I was so scared to go see her but I knew my only option was to just show up. If I involved anyone else in the family it would become a big drama or I might be talked out of it.
As we drove up even though I was filled sometimes with dread to face the worst, I kept the 4 things in mind always. That's it. That's what it comes down to. Nothing else matters. I told my friends about the 4 things (our best friends who we stopped to stay the night with before I went the rest of the trip.) I wasn't excited or happy about going to my parents house, but I knew I had too.
I was able to visualize that there would be NO drama no matter what - because I would focus ONLY on the 4 things. If someone else in the family happened to be there and wanted to create drama I wouldn't engage because all I cared about was "I love you, Please forgive me, Thank you and I forgive you." And to be honest, I was afraid BEFORE I READ YOUR BOOK that I would want to create drama.
Well, God was on our side.
I drove up just as my dad was bringing my mom back from the doctor.
One of my sisters was walking over to help her out of the car. She saw me and after a few seconds recognized me. I told her all I wanted to do was to tell mom I love her and to ask her to please forgive me for all the hurt feelings. I told her to ask mom if it was OK for me to come in. She said it was a miracle.......
Then I spent 2 lovely hours with my mom, my dad and my sister. The biggest miracle and what I will FOREVER BE GRATEFUL FOR is I was most with my mom. I wanted my mom to know how much I loved her and how grateful I was for her and for what she did for me and my sons. I was able to share with HER my love and my appreciation for the life she gave me and the gifts she bestowed on me and my sons. And because I was clear in my intentions of the 4 things and not all clouded up with past judgments and hurts I could COMMUNICATE THAT 100%!!!!!!!!!!!!
I think my mom will be around for while and I am going to arrange for my grown sons to visit her. I will remain committed to the 4 things with her and the rest of my family.
No matter what happens in the future I have those 2 hours with my mom. I told her I loved her and she told me she loved me.
I recommend this book to everyone.
Somehow, I could not get into the perfect fullness of the present with Dr. Byock's book, especially when I came to the part where he recommends eleven words for patients facing life's end: "Please forgive me. I forgive you. Thank you. I love you."
To Dr. Byock, these four short sentences carry the core of wisdom about what matters most in life." He claims these are "eleven words we all need to say more often." I say, "no we don't!" In fact, while it might be a good idea to utter these words IF you have mucked up an important part of your life, namely, your relationships with family and friends, a much better idea is to organize your lifestyle, personality and purposes in such a way while well that you don't feel any need to make amends on your proverbial deathbed.
We live in a 12-step culture of smarmy psychobabble that makes best selling authors out of healers who think we are all walking wounded, in constant need of therapy, amazing grace and forgiveness. Alas, for many, this may be true--I don't doubt for a minute that Dr. Byock's patients manifested the symptoms of guilt he describes or that they benefited from his comforting. But, everyone is not or need not fall into this syndrome of failure desperate but a last gasp apology of sorts designed to make everything (i.e., a life!) OK. An alternative, wellness perspective might include opting out of the wounded category, rejecting negativity, passing on endless opportunities to feel sorry for yourself in lieu of a joyful, upbeat and effective existence while well that leaves no regrets for the end. A wellness perspective on dying healthy will, it seems to me, always focus on ways to make life fuller, more satisfying, meaningful and positive.
I have seen the following attributed to George Carlin, but then, like Mark Twain, a lot of expressions are attributed to Carlin that he never uttered. But, for now, let's assume or pretend this is authentic Carlin: "Always remember! Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away. We all need to live life to it's fullest each day. Never regret becoming older; too many are denied the privilege!"
Sounds good, but even this seemingly sensible, sweet idea is fraught with problems for those of us in the rationalist, critical thinking mode. For one thing, our lives are not measured at all, at least not by any common, agreed upon measures such as breathless moments. I'm sure the mullahs in Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq would have different "measures" in mind than those that would appeal to Westerners. Personally, I'd measure DBRU equivalents, but even I would want to throw other things into the mix. Basically, we all have our own "measures" for this sort of thing, or would if we ever thought about it.
Here are a few changes I'd recommend for Dr. Ira Byock's eleven dying words (although I don't plan to limit myself to eleven words, and doubt you would want to stop there, either): In the following case, my first six words are different-I kept the last five. "Time to go. It's been great. Thank you. I love you."
Be well. Always look on the bright side of life, including when it's ending.