Monday, January 21, 2013

Hospice Book Review by Reader Scared of Death

The reading audience of hospice and other books about death includes many who approach this subject with fear. They also avoid talking, writing or reading about the end of life. An author, eldercare consultant and hospice volunteer, I have been told on numerous occasions that dying is just too depressing and final to share openly.

This reluctance to deal with mortality visited a friendship of mine. I had given a casual friend a copy of my book Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes. Wanting to be sensitive and not knowing her feelings about death, I decided not to talk to her about the book unless she mentioned it. Eventually, she did. I’ll call her Alice. She approved my writing this blog post.

Because Alice works in the healthcare profession, I was surprised to discover that she feels strongly that death, a frightening stalker of her dreams, is an enemy that terrifies her. She shared that death has stolen too many of her loved ones, including pets. She helplessly dreads the thought of losing even more. My own acceptance of death, which comes across clearly in my conversations and writings, seems inappropriate to her. She finds my views too accepting of her adversary, too casual a regard for life. While she says she would consider hospice care along with other options in the future, she admits she could never be even an average hospice volunteer. It would be too painful.

What is her review of Becoming Dead Right? She loves the patients’ stories and my comments about interactions with various people in the nursing home world. The original poetry, which concludes each chapter and probably nudges her own poetic abilities, pleases her. She finds the discussions on hospice, nursing homes, caregiving, dementia, death and bereavement informative. The explanations about intergenerational school-nursing home partnerships and the ideal nursing home described in the last chapter are particularly enjoyable. But she dislikes emphatically the premise that there is a “right” way to die.

I am not sure if her hostility toward death has changed much, but I hope that this book meeting with what she refers to as “the monster” has impacted her positively on some level. Those of us who embrace the reality of dying and death will continue to be viewed with dismay by those who cope with mortality through avoidance and resignation of themselves and loved ones as victims of malicious end-of-life  powers.

Alice’s revelations reinforce the importance of promoting dying as a natural part of life that should be experienced with calm and dignity by everyone. I believe conversations and writings enhance lives of the naysayers one person at a time. These efforts empower them slowly with death acceptance even as they resist the message. I appreciate Alice’s frankness in sharing death’s distressful presence in her life and in giving feedback on my book. Most of all, I commend her willingness to become a ball of courage rolling into the high weeds where the death monster lives.

You can read book endorsements, excerpts, and more at my website.

Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes is available in paperback and e-book editions in America and other countries at online and offline booksellers.


  1. Hello Frances ~~
    I too am a long time Hospice volunteer, and have run into this attitude of fear and denial (re: death and dying) in conversations with family and friends many times.
    Please keep the conversations going!
    Thank you....
    Ronee Henson

    1. You bet! The conversations help people become more familiar and comfortable with the topic of death, something we all will experience.
      Happy endings!