With Journey’s End, editors Victoria Brewster and Julie Saeger Nierenberg offer a valuable sourcebook on death and dying.
The editors begin by offering context to the subject, with chapters discussing: how people experience the process of death, hospice and palliative care, what constitutes a “good death,” and the COVID pandemic.
These are followed by essays from various individuals, personal stories that define death from almost every perspective, from those experiencing the loss of a partner or child to a nurse befriending an AIDS patient. The stories describe the anguish and solace of the survivors, expressing a range of viewpoints, from the cynical, “We’re born, we live, and we die….And in between we pay taxes,” to the idea that the deceased will always remain in the bereaved’s heart.
The editors also offer articles concerning available services, including palliative and hospice care, physician assisted suicide, bereavement counseling, and end-of-life ceremonies. For each topic, the editors provide lists of resources.
One sentiment that limns the writing is the desirability of a “good death.” By this, the authors mean a death without “invasive, irrational, and unrealistically complex procedures.” Another belief that surfaces throughout is the need for a kind of courageous compassion. “The ultimate human response to suffering is to help people bear the unbearable,” states John Shuster, MD, in his essay “The Perspective of a Hospice Physician.”
With its many viewpoints and resources, Journey’s End offers help to readers with the process of bearing death. The only place it falters is with the inclusion of some less-successful pieces. Some of the essays are too slight to carry weight (one is a scant three-quarters of a page). A few others, regretfully, devolve into ads. A death café facilitator, for instance, promotes her business, ending with, “Please contact me at www…” etc.
This aside, Journey’s End will surely bring comfort to those engulfed in the grieving process or considering death. As Nierenberg reminds us, “Grief is how love lives on in memory.”
Also available as an ebook.