Dying with Ease- a book review

Dr. Spiess doesn’t suggest that confronted with terminal illness we refuse treatment and give up. He advocates thinking about and planning for the dying process long before we develop an illness that might be fatal.

This is at least the fouth book about death I have reviewed. I didn’t plan to, but it just happened. Maybe because of what Dr. Atul Gawande wrote in his book Being Mortal, another book I reviewed.

Death may be the enemy, but it is also the natural order of things.

Atul Gawande, M.D.

In this instance, I was approached by the publisher , FSB Associates, asking if I would review the book, and offered a complimentary copy. Otherwise, I was not compensated for my review. The book links in this post are affiliate links which may help support this blog financially.

Dying with Ease by Jeff Spiess, M.D.

A Compassionate Guide for Making Wiser End-of-Life Decisions
Dying with East-a book

In the introduction, author Dr. Jeff Spiess explains his purpose for writing this book.

my primary hope is for you, dear reader, to become more informed and at peace regarding your own dying.

Jeff Spiess, M.D.

Dr. Spiess doesn’t suggest that confronted with terminal illness we refuse treatment and give up. He advocates thinking about and planning for the dying process long before we develop an illness that might be fatal.

His book reviews the challenges of the dying process, and guides us in making choices that make it smoother and with ease.

Let’s review the titles of each chapter with a brief description of what each contains.

1. Dying in America

Here he proposes a definition for what is a “good death”; it’s one that matches the wishes of the dying person and their family.

2. I’m Going to Die? What Can I Do?

In this chapter he explains Advance Care Planning

  • Advanced Directives
  • Durable power of attorney for healthcare
  • Do Not Resuscitate-DNR
  • Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment
  • Artificial Nutrition and Hydration

3. Hospice

In this chapter he reviews the history of hospice care care and explains the basics of palliative (rather than curative) care

4. Suffering

Most dying persons want to minimize suffering so Dr. Spiess lists ways to do so, some of which are controversial and even illegal in some states.

  • Palliative sedation
  • Voluntary stopping eating / drinking
  • medical aid in dying
  • voluntary euthanasia

5. It’s My Life, Isn’t It?

Here he discussed autonomy , bioethics, and the legal system using past high profile cases as illustrations, those being

  • Karen Ann Quinlan
  • Brittnany Maynard
  • Theresa Schiavo
"To every thing there is a season" Bible verse with fall color leaves
from Ecclesiastes 3

the time of peril, what St. John of the Cross called the “dark night of the soul,” … both tests the validity of one’s faith and initiates that essential process of incarnation

page 109

6. What’s God Got to Do With It?

Here he talks about “Religion, Spirituality, and the End of Life. He finds many people turn to religion when faced with death and sometimes that is not an altogether positive experience. However, he denies being anti-religion saying,

many find religious traditions to be sources of profound comfort and meaning. …it has been so for many friends, relatives, and patients, and also because it is true for me.

page 109

He finds it essential to differentiate religion as primarily a matter of intellectual assent to doctrines and beliefs, or whether the essense of a person’s faith has become understood and embodied in their being.

photo by DJ Thomas, Lightstock.com

7. What Does It Feel Like to Die?

In this chapter he invites the reader to do a guided exercise to encounter the inner experience of dying. Putting pen to paper you will answer a series of questions about your life. Then you review it as you finish reading the chapter. I did the exercise and found it enlightening and sobering.

8. Envisioning Your Own Death

Here he expands on the idea of Advanced Care Planning introduced in chapter 2. He adds such steps as

  • Know the rules (insurance coverage)
  • Disposition of your body
  • Disposition of “stuff”, making a will
woman sitting in a cemetery
photo from the Lightstock.com collection, an affiliate link

9. What’s It All About, Anyway?

Dr. Spiess concludes with a true story about a wife’s journey to finding meaning after her young husband’s unexpected death.

living well increases the likelihood of dying well

page 161

Conclusion

After the obligatory Acknowledgments this book has

  • Discussion Questions which seem most appropriate for personal reflection . There is one question based on each chapter.
  • Notes, which are chapter specific
  • An extensive Bibliography
  • An Index
  • Brief Author bio

Jeff Spiess, M.D.

Dr. Jeff Spiess

Dr. Spiess started in medicine as an oncologist, cancer specialist, then transitioned into palliative and end-of-life care as director of a hospice. His website, https://drjeffspiess.com/, offers a complete bio, audio interviews, his blog posts, social media links, and form to join his email list.

exploring the HEART of life and death

Thanks for following this blog. If you’re visiting, I would love for you to start following Watercress Words : use the form to get an email notification of new posts. Don’t worry, you won’t get anything else from me. I also want you to find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest , Instagram, and LinkedIn .

Dr. Aletha

cheesy-free faith-focused stock photos

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(This is an affiliate link)

To Joey, With Love- a movie review

Although I cried throughout, I’m glad I watched To Joey, With Love, and recommend it to you; it is an extraordinary love story that demonstrates the power of love and faith to get ordinary people through the worst life can throw at them.

To Joey, With Love

A Story of Life, Love, and Hope That Never Dies

90 minutes , with Spanish and English subtitles for the hearing impaired

Provident Films 2016

To Joey, with Love is the intimate, authentic, and transparent story of a couple who met head on two of life’s most difficult challenges- a special needs child and a terminal illness. Rory produced the film because he believed their story needed to be remembered, documented and shared.
This post updated February 27, 2021 and contains affiliate links to products, purchases help support this blog.

Joey and Rory

Joey and Rory Feek had a successful career as a country music singing duo and a happy 12 year marriage when they decided to take a year off to have a baby. For many years Joey had been afraid to have a baby, fearing she would not be a good mother.

Her pregnancy progressed normally and culminated in a planned at home birth attended by a midwife. Sudden complications forced a trip to a hospital where both mother and baby were stabilized and in no immediate danger.

Unfortunately, the doctors and nurses told Joey and Rory that their much anticipated child had a problem- their new baby girl had Trisomy 21, also known as Down syndrome.

Indie’s challenge- Down Syndrome

People with Down syndrome have an increased risk for certain medical conditions-

  • congenital heart defects,
  • respiratory and hearing problems,
  • Alzheimer’s disease,
  • childhood leukemia and
  • thyroid conditions.

Many of these conditions are now treatable, so most people with Down syndrome lead healthy lives.

Here are more  Down Syndrome Facts

 

Trisomy 21 chromosomes
Children with Down Syndrome have an extra chromosome, number 21 (see arrow) Diagram courtesy of Dr. Clark Heath of the CDC

 

Joey’s challenge-Cervical cancer

A few months after their baby Indiana’s birth, Joey  faced the recurrence of cervical cancer diagnosed and treated years before. Despite more surgery, radiation and chemo the cancer persisted until further treatments were futile and and likely to cause more suffering. Joey decided to leave their Nashville farm,her horses, chickens and gardens, to move home to Indiana to spend her remaining time with her extended family.

FACED WITH THE PERSISTENCE OF THE CANCER

“JOEY DECIDED TO COME HOME-NOT TO DIE, BUT TO LIVE.”

Cervical cancer starts in the cervix, the narrow opening into the uterus from the vagina. More than 12,000 women in the United States will be diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, and more than 4,000 of women will die.

Cervical cancer is the second most common type of cancer for women worldwide, but because it develops over time, it is also one of the most preventable types of cancer since the widespread use of the Pap test to detect cervical abnormalities leads to early treatment.

Cancer of the cervix tends to occur during midlife. Half of the women diagnosed with the disease are between 35 and 55 years of age. It rarely affects women under age 20, and approximately 20 percent of diagnoses are women older than 65. Women should ask their doctor how often and for how long they should continue having Pap smears.

The National Cervical Cancer Coalition provides this overview of cervical cancer treatment.

overview of cervical cancer treatment

Get the Inside Knowledge about gynecologic cancer.

Rory Feek-musician and writer

In 2014 Rory Feek started sharing their lives in a blog and on Facebook which is where I first learned about them.

Eventually, he shared the entire story on the blog, which also lead to his book by the same name, and eventually the movie.

 

 

 

This Life I Live: One Man’s Extraordinary, Ordinary Life, and the Woman Who Changed It Forever 

 

“In This Life I Live, Rory Feek helps us not only to connect more fully to his and Joey’s story but also to our own journeys. He shows what can happen when we are fully open in life’s key moments, whether when meeting our life companion or tackling an unexpected tragedy.

He also gives never-before-revealed details on their life together and what he calls “the long goodbye,” the blessing of being able to know that life is going to end and taking advantage of it. Rory shows how we are all actually there already and how we can learn to live that way every day.” (Amazon review)

 

Here is a link to a book excerpt-

RORY FEEK OPENS UP ABOUT HOW HE MET AND FELL IN LOVE WITH HIS LATE WIFE, JOEY

 

And now as a single dad, raising their daughter Indie with the help of family and friends, Rory continues his musical career and blogs at

roryfeek -an extraordinary, ordinary life

And has written another book

sharing the HEART of love and faith

Although I cried throughout,  I’m glad I watched To Joey, With Love, and recommend it to you; it is an extraordinary love story that demonstrates the power of love and faith to get ordinary people through the worst life can throw at them.

Thanks for following this blog. If you’re visiting, I would love for you to start following Watercress Words : use the form to get an email notification of new posts. Don’t worry, you won’t get anything else from me. I also want you to find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest , Instagram, and LinkedIn .

Dr. Aletha