If we are honest with ourselves and others, the holidays bring a range of emotions to the surface in even the most well adjusted of us. It comes as no surprise that for those who have lost loved ones or love someone who is dying, the holidays can be especially challenging.
I have lost two close family members this year, and if I could skip Christmas all together in a month, I probably would elect to do so. It's hard to prepare myself for their absence at our family gatherings. My grandmother was 102, my brother a mere 45. She was ready to go, he was not. Cancer showed no mercy in his case. I knew at the close of 2017 I would most likely lose these two in the coming year, and I was fortunate to run across Elisabeth Kbler-Ross and David Kessler's book entitled "Life Lessons: Two Experts on Death and Dying," which teaches us "about the mysteries of life and living." When I tell you this book gave me a new outlook, I mean it.
Kbler-Ross and Kessler are experts in the fields of death, dying and hospice care. This book is a result of their close collaboration. This book includes stories they have shared in their lectures, workshops and discussions with patients and families. They bring years of experience to their writing and are quick to tell the reader that the dying have much to teach us about life, as they reinforce this truth throughout the book "the tragedy is not that life is short, but that we often see only in hindsight what really matters."
As a result of Kbler-Ross and Kessler's work with the dying, they have witnessed firsthand the universal life lessons as humans we all struggle with. The authors' hope is by sharing their years of experience, we, the living, can help ourselves now.
There are 14 chapters each presented as a lesson. The lessons of time, fear, anger, love and surrender were some of the most helpful to me personally. These lessons were a comfort to me as I braced myself for my grandmother's and brother's end of life, while also giving me valuable insight pertaining to my own human struggles.
This book is a perspective changer and one that will make you a better person, or at least a wiser person for having read it.
Claudia Cook is the director for the Missouri River Regional Library.