A look at the spiritual, emotional, and philosophical implications of end-of-life care by an elegant and literary writer who is a hospital chaplain.
As a hospital chaplain, Amy Wright Glenn has been present with those suffering from suicide, trauma, disease, and unforeseen accidents and has been witness to the intense grief and powerful insights that so often accompany loss. She weaves together memoir, philosophical inquiry, and cutting-edge research on death/dying to chronicle how we, as individuals and as a culture, handle everything from grief to mortality.
Award winning author, Lisa J. Shultz, is of the Baby Boomer generation and lost her father, age 89 in 2015. She embraces a challenging and often avoided topic of facing the end-of-life stage of a loved one. With courage, vulnerability and love, she recounts her dad's storied life, including its difficult ending. Wrought with what she felt was unnecessary suffering in for all involved at the end, she strives to help others find a more peaceful final chapter of life.
She begins her book by providing the background of her father, a World War II veteran. Their relationship was tenuous in Lisa's youth because she was disappointed and angered by his behavior, distancing herself from him and blaming him for the sudden end to their intact comfortable family life. As a young adult and after her father's sudden heart attack, Lisa was given a second chance to heal their relationship. Over the next three decades, they became closer, enjoying time together, including travel. When her dad entered his eighties, and while still raising her own children, Lisa found herself unprepared for his steady health decline. Suddenly, she was thrust into the role of overseeing his care as he began to experience increasing disability and the beginnings of dementia.
Not having prepared for or anticipated such a role, Lisa floundered as she attempted to address his ever-changing situation. The closeness and healing they had achieved was challenged as her father resisted conversations about his failing health and his care, exacerbated by a western medical system that fell short to prepare them for the end of his life.
After her father's death, Lisa began researching and compiling information aimed at educating and supporting others who may not be equipped for the challenges and decisions that arise when those we love begin to lose their health and mental clarity. The book also reminds us of our own mortality and inspires conversation and preparation to potentially ease the suffering for ourselves and those we leave behind.
A moving tribute to a remarkable man and a daughter's experience of losing her dad, A Chance to Say Goodbye gives rise to reflections about what is important in living and dying.