The book that meant the most to me this year was actually first published in 1992.
When my father was dying of lung cancer last spring, it seemed like every book I touched had something to do with serious illness and/or dying, even when there was nothing in the description to warn me death might be part of the contents. At first I resisted. I'd stop reading a book if I even sniffed sadness or death. After a while, I gave into it, figuring maybe I needed a way to process my grief, and to know that I wasn't alone in this experience of supporting a loved one to the other side.
About that time, a friend told me about Final Gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs and Communications of the Dying, by Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelley. Once I picked it up, I couldn't put it down. Written by two hospice nurses who have witnessed the dying process of many patients with terminal illness, Final Gifts describes how dying people can develop a sense of what is happening to them, communicate this to their loved ones and take control of how and when they go. Callanan and Kelley give several case histories to illustrate what they describe, and the book reads easily. It helped me approach Dad’s dying experience with a broader spiritual understanding, more hope and less confusion. It also gave me the courage to keep trying to communicate with him, when what he said was often confusing, and after he became unable to talk with us. I recommend Final Gifts to anyone with a loved one who has (or had) a terminal illness.
Final Gifts: Understanding the special awareness