How two dying women teach us how to live

Here are two books I have reviewed about two women who died, one old, the other young. Both of them struggled with illness a long time and both families “kept hoping that she was just a corner away from getting back on her feet.” And both families were grateful for the time they had with her.

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I subscribe to Dr. Alicia Britt Chole’s newletter where she recently announced the passing of her mother. I savor obituaries because I feel like I have made a new friend, like this woman-

“My Mama went to be with Jesus on April 4th. She was among the most generous, loving, and sacrificial souls I’ve ever known. Mom’s been struggling with illnesses for the past five months but she’s such a fighter, we and the doctors kept hoping that she was just a corner away from getting back on her feet.

But she was a corner away from dancing with her Savior. Oh the ache. I can’t express the ache. I am grateful for every moment with my Mom, for the millions of memories, for being so well loved.

In her last 24 hours she was able to say “I love you” to each of her grandchildren and several dear friends and her sister. Keona sang Amazing Grace for her. Louie kissed her and told her he loved her. Jonathan played Amazing Grace for her on the violin and read Psalm 23 to her. ⠀

Mom helped anyone she could in any way she could. Her hands were constantly serving through cooking (her love language), bookkeeping (her profession), petting her puppy, taking care of her chickens, and loads of hugs for all of us.

If you knew her, you felt seen and loved by her. I’m so grateful we’ll have eternity together. Please pray for our family in between here and there.”

P.S. Mom said that if anybody wanted to send flowers, to instead ask them to, “please buy a toy for a child and leave it in a park.”

Here are two books I have reviewed about two women who died, one old, the other young. Both of them struggled with illness a long time and both families “kept hoping that she was just a corner away from getting back on her feet.”

Each woman’s family was grateful for the time they had with her and for how she faced death taught them how to live.

I hope you savor my reviews and maybe find the books and read them too.

Driving Miss Norma- why saying yes to life matters

When faced with death, Norma chose living. And in doing so, she and her family learned what really matters at the end. Through this book, they share what they learned with us.

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.

exploring the HEART of health at the end of life

Please don’t leave without visiting these pages to learn more about me and other ways this blog can help you. And I would greatly appreciate your sharing this post whereever you are social.

The next time someone I know dies, I’ll think about buying a toy and leaving it in a park. How about you?

Dr. Aletha
a toy castle and shovel in the sand
photo by TheRealFindo at LIGHTSTOCK.COM, an affiliate

A time to be born, and a time to die-what books teach us about dying

The books I reviewed share  common themes, and events yet are each unique as are the people in them who demonstrate both resilience and fragility. 

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,

Ecclesiastes 3, NIV

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Birth and death are the only medical events that all humans share. We can anticipate and celebrate the births of other people but not our own.

However we all can anticipate our own death although most of the time we don’t want to.  Unless we deal with a chronic life threatening disease or  are  diagnosed with a terminal illness, or thrust into a life-threatening situation such as combat or a natural disaster,  most of us don’t consider  about how or when we will die. But in truth we all will die.

I have reviewed several books about death here . Not because I  wanted to write about death but because several good books deal with death sensitively and thoughtfully.

Books about death are sometimes written by a person who is facing death. Relatives write after a loved one dies- a child ,a spouse ,a parent. The motivation for writing these books varies as does the motivation for reading them.

I reviewed these books  because by understanding how other people and their families have faced death it may relieve our dread, anxiety, or fear  about dying and death. Often it is not death itself that we  fear but the dying process -the pain , disability, dependence, isolation, unfulfilled dreams.

In an essay  for JAMA, Dr. Zachary Sager, a geriatric and palliative care physician in Boston Massachusetts, described his response to  working with dying patients-

“I witnessed how people could be simultaneously resilient and fragile. I was moved by the connectedness between individuals.

I accept that death offers not only the expected reflection on life and mourning but an opportunity for a unique form of growth and healing. ”

The books I reviewed share  common themes, and events yet are each unique as are the people in them who demonstrate both resilience and fragility.

I am posting excerpts from my reviews with a link to the entire piece. I welcome and encourage your comments about these books as well as any about how you  have navigated death in your family.

A 90 year old woman says “yes” to life

Driving Miss Norma tells the story of Norma Bauerschmidt, a WWII WAVE veteran, wife, and mother. She was still in good health at 90 years of age, until she was diagnosed with cancer.

Her doctor recommended surgery to be followed by chemotherapy, and warned her the treatment and recovery would be long and difficult. She told him no, she would rather “hit the road” with her son and daughter-in-law and enjoy her life, seeing and doing things she had not had a chance to do before. And her doctor agreed, saying that is just what he would do.

Driving Miss Norma - a book cover

Tim, her son, and Ramie, his wife, had already been living a nomadic life, travelling the country with their standard poodle Ringo in an Airstream travel  trailer they parked in campgrounds and  Walmart parking lots. They enjoyed travelling, seeing new places, meeting new people. They wondered how adding a 90 year old woman to their wandering lifestyle would work.

Driving Miss Norma- a book review

A young mother who chose life

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.

To Joey, With Love

Faced with the persistence of the cancer

“Joey decided to come home-not to die, but to live.”

To Joey, With Love- a movie review

A physician who faces his own mortality

Dr. Paul Kalanithi was a 36-year-old resident physician who had, as he wrote, “reached the mountaintop” of anticipating a promising career as a neurosurgeon and neuroscientist. He had a loving wife, a supportive family and professors who respected his knowledge and skill. He seemed destined to be sought after, well paid, productive, successful, and  famous.


(note: a neurosurgeon treats  brain, spinal cord and nerve  diseases such as brain tumors that can be cured or improved with surgery,)

Unfortunately, “the culmination of decades of striving evaporated” when he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of lung cancer for which the prognosis was bleak, even with treatment. He was admitted to the very hospital where he trained as a neurosurgery resident, now  to learn what it is like to be a patient with a potentially terminal illness.

When Breath Becomes Air- reflections from Dr. Lucy Kalanithi

Thank you for joining me to remember and honor Norma, Joey, and Paul. I appreciate their families’ generosity in sharing their stories and the HEART of health.

Dr. Aletha stethoscope with a heart

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