bookWhy would I be reviewing a book on hospice when is all about prevention?

In my experience “prevention” and “end-of-life issues” are marginalized in the medical arena; and it is that very gap that bridges the two. As is the case with prevention, very few resources are being devoted to end of life including education, research and advocacy. One way this is demonstrated is with late admissions to hospice. Through experience I am cognizant of the pressure and financial model to sell treatment and fill hospital beds under the guise of “hope.”  In a culture where treatment is the primary option, it is that very model of “break and fix” that does not allow the space for funding of prevention or end-of-life issues.

I am  personally interested in hospice specifically due to the losses in my own life.  And despite repeated experiences with others’ deaths, I have never really been educated in hospice. Truth be told, I have not wanted to ever slow down to discuss death or much less have to say goodbye to anyone.

I recall the death of a friend a year ago and a half ago. The doctor told me it did not look good. In a panic, I instantly went into the room and said this was not working for me and that she was “just going to have to get out of bed.”

The reality was, I just did not seem to have the bandwidth for more loss. Death was not part of the equation. We never talked about it.  And this was not happening. And while my friend was eager to meet Jesus (her words, not mine), she hung in there for a few days to give us all time to really understand what was happening, which I see now as truly a thoughtful gift.

While Lindner’s book is not a “how-to” book, I found myself thinking as I read it that everyone needs to read this long before they are cornered into negotiating end-of-life issues either for themselves or a loved one.

Lindner’s observations, while colorfully written, are a poignant reminder of many turns in my own journey. It is written in a naive,  journaling style that is fresh and uninhibited. As I turned page after page, I made the leap that Lindner had not experienced death in a close-up way prior to his new role as hospice volunteer. My hunch was correct. When I texted him, he confirmed what I had observed between the lines. I believe that it is Lindner’s newness, his freshness to loss that makes this story so important and so at the level of most of us.

I appreciated Lindner’s transparency in Hospice Voices. For me, it resonated not unlike Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book on Lincoln, Team of Rivals, in which Goodwin examines the relationships with three men Lincoln selected for his cabinet, in turn telling the story of Lincoln.

Hospice Voices, while not intended to be about the author, for me provided a window into Lindner’s head and heart working in a Team of Rivals method to tell the story of the author’s negotiation and process of loss through the patients he met during his volunteer work in hospice.

Lindner offers beautiful, sometimes quirky observations like those of us in the real world who may not be experts in death and dying. He shares all the wins and losses that he as a volunteer experiences with each patient. There is never one moment of the all-knowing, head-nodding arrogance we have all experienced at one time or another in any number of settings. Lindner takes his reader on his hospice journey, sharing observations, reflections and questions that people not experienced in the field will appreciate.

What I most treasured were Lindner’s observations around the common and uncommon and unique traits of each patient and patient’s family.

End of life is such a personal thing for each individual, in addition to individuals within a family context. Nothing is predictable or known.

Reading Lindner’s book allowed me to reflect on my own journey with those I have loved in the dying process. I recalled trying to navigate my own unique relationships with those dying and attempting to get through the storm in an environment where loss and grief come at one like a tsunami, making it difficult to sort out facts and information and still assimilate what is actually happening with the patient.

Lindner’s book is a gift to individuals and families and should be read by all. It not only provides a very clear window into the subject of dying but also provides an opportunity for discussions relative to what we will all be facing.