Hospice Voices: Lessons for Living at the End of Life by Eric Lindner
|Hospice Voices: Lessons for Living at the End of Life by Eric Lindner|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Touching and illuminating memoir from a hospice volunteer. It will make you think. And don't be afraid to read it: it's the very opposite of depressing. Eric Lindner popped into Bookbag Towers to chat to us.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 232||Date: October 2013|
|Publisher: Rowman and Littlefield|
|External links: Author's website|
Hospice Voices tells the stories of the last days of some fascinating people while it follows author Eric Lindner through his journey as a hospice volunteer and a crisis in his own daughter's health.
Readers in the UK should note that hospice has a slightly different meaning stateside. Whilst in Britain the term hospice is mostly used to mean in-patient end-of-life facilities, in the US it refers to a wide range of palliative care. When Lindner says he is a hospice companion, he is mostly visiting patients in their own homes. There are also some mentions of the US health system - insurance, Medicare, etc - that don't really apply in the UK. Otherwise though, this book is universal, speaking to end-of-life situations generally, bearing witness to and honouring wonderful people who are no longer with us, and illuminating the work done by volunteers in the sector.
There are many wonderful things about Hospice Voices. Most importantly, there are the patients themselves, who are wildly different but who are all vivid, interesting people whose passing is to be mourned. There is a man who spent his life spreading love and compassion in the Peace Corps. Another who shot down kamikaze pilots during WWII. A fearless but desperately ill woman who carries a 5lb gun that weighs almost as much as she does. A part Native American woman who loves to get a manicure. A man whose custom cowboy boots are his most treasured possession. An ex-teacher with Alzheimer's who once spent a precious summer enabling a terminally ill child to pass his end-of-year exams because he wanted to go to heaven as a success.
Then there's the honesty. Lindner isn't afraid to recall his failures as a volunteer. There were times he struggled to make a connection with the patients he was visiting. There were others where he made assumptions - a cardinal sin in hospice volunteering - about what would be best for someone else. And there is one instance of his crossing the line in a medical intervention - another no-no. It's not easy to do this work when sometimes what seems like the right thing to do is actually the wrong thing. But overriding all these worries and Catch-22s, you'll get a real sense of how fulfilling hospice volunteering can be. How enlightening it is to practise non-judgemental compassion. How the gifts your patients give you often outweigh the gift you've given them. And when Lindner feels that his own experience with a patient and a family member may not give the full picture, he makes room for a section from the relative. Everyone has a say in this book.
There is some practical advice too: how to make light of the inevitable bureaucracy; how to be guided by the patient's wishes; that simple companionship is often worth more than you could ever have imagined. Lindner brings his patients edible treats, helps them write last letters to loved ones, reads to them. Simple things on the surface but precious things underneath. And when Lindner's own daughter suffers a health crisis and his own life is thrown into turmoil, it's one of his own patients who provides much-needed succour. To me, this was proof positive that we reap what we sow in life. Hospice Voices is a book about death, and sometimes it is upsetting, but it's the very opposite of depressing. I read it with the odd tear but a lasting smile.
Lastly, all the profits from this lovely book will be donated to end-of-life charities. What better final recommendation could you want?
I thought Hospice Voices was wonderful: illuminating, inspirational, honest and heartfelt. You should read it.
We should think about living as well as about dying and you might also enjoy The Wonderbox: Curious Histories of How to Live by Roman Krznaric.
You can read more book reviews or buy Hospice Voices: Lessons for Living at the End of Life by Eric Lindner at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Hospice Voices: Lessons for Living at the End of Life by Eric Lindner at Amazon.com.
You can read more about Eric Lindner here.
Eric Lindner was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.