It is ironic that I am writing a blog post about a book which deals with death and dying just days after having to put down my beautiful 11 year old canine companion. But as I went through that part of the journey, I saw that there were some similarities to the process that people go through when the humans in their lives are dying.
Kathryn Mannix has been in the palliative care field for over 30 years and has witnessed death and dying from many different perspectives. In With the End in Mind : dying, death, and wisdom in an age of denial, she shares a number of stories of how people and their families manage the journey of dying.
In the introduction, Mannix reflects on how modern society’s approach to death has devolved into a fact of life that is to be feared and avoided. And yet, as natural as birth is, so too is the process of death. We’ll all die at some time and Mannix’s goal is to help us to make the dying journey more fulfilling and embracing for all concerned.
She begins by talking about the very words, ‘dead’, ‘dying’, ‘death’, as expressions that have been shuttered by society. Rather, we say ‘passed’, ‘crossed over’, ‘transitioned’……. any kind of description that will mask the stark reality of the moment. Just as it is important to teach children the actual names for all of our body parts, so too is it important to be honest about what death is. This is not to be confused with one’s belief about what happens after death but rather what happens while one is dying, two very different subjects.
The stories she shares in this book are lovely and illustrate how beautiful the process of dying can be if all of the parties can be honest about their feelings. You will read about family members who pretended that their loved one was going to be okay, when in fact they were deteriorating rapidly. You will read about how palliative care staff helped reduce the fear and panic that can sometimes overwhelm patients as they near the end. You will see the redemptive power that legacy can bring to the dying.
Contrary to what you might think, this is an uplifting book. Yes, there are sad moments but it offers an opportunity for observation and self-reflection that may be of benefit when the inevitable happens in our own lives.
— Nancy C.