Death is a subject that I think we should all think about more. The most certain thing in life is that it will eventually end. Why then do so many of us not think about or prepare for the inevitable. But where should we start when we contemplate the end of our life.
As a library employee with all of the inherent biases that come with that, of course I think we should start with books in our contemplation of anything, and especially death.
A good work on death is Being Mortal (DB80380) by Dr. Atul Gawande, which examines how we make end of life decisions for ourselves and our loved ones.
Gawande is a physician, who through his work, has counseled many people through the end of life process. Even though these conversations are a very significant part of a physician’s job, physicians aren’t usually trained on these interactions, and Dr. Gawande himself never gave it much thought until it was his father’s life he was dealing with. His experience with his father at the end of his life sent him on a quest to document how end of life conversations happen between doctors and patients, and what kind of decisions are made.
Dr. Gawande travels to observe conversations between doctors and terminal patients at different hospitals in the United States. Crucial topics include quality vs quantity of life, Do Not Resusitate (DNR) orders, hospice care, and much more.
All of this got me to thinking and sharing with my loved ones my wishes if I were in these circumstances. These are not necessarily easy conversations to have, but necessary nonetheless, if we want our final wishes to be observed.
Being Mortal was also made into a documentary for PBS’s Frontline, and is available to view here: https://www.pbs.org/video/frontline-being-mortal/
Another enlightening title on death that we will begin recording in our studios at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped this year, is Paths of Heart by Richard Haverlack. Richard, whose father and uncle passed away before hospice care was an option, writes memoirs of dying people receiving hospice care, and this title shares the wisdom he’s gained from being around those at the end of life. This is an excellent book that we will make available to our patrons from right here in our studios in Pittsburgh.
These are just a couple of titles that deal with death. Do you have any particular title that you’ve found to be insightful or interesting? If so, please let us know in the comments below.