Yesterday a friend of mine, who is a hospice chaplain, posted an interesting question on Facebook. She was explaining how many of her nonverbal patients had indicated that they felt more at peace and less anxious whenever she read to them. She’d been reading the Bible to them mostly, but she was hoping to try a short novel. Her question was: What would you like to have read to you or your loved one at the end of life?
It’s an challenging and beautiful question, and one that stands front and center in Will Schwalbe’s book, The End of Your Life Book Club. When Schwalbe’s mother, Mary, is diagnosed with a rare form of pancreatic cancer, mother and son respond by forming a book club. Together and over the next two years they read the classics, popular fiction, whimsical children’s literature, poetry, spiritual books, mysteries and fantasies, growing closer in the process just as Mary’s life is coming to a close.
Is your heart in your throat yet? What intrigues me is their book choices. From the sounds of it, they were indiscriminating, reading “meaningful” books right down to casual page-turners. I can kind of understand that. Even though I like to think I’d read great books full of wisdom and startlingly poetic sentences, in reality, I’d probably want to escape into a good Agatha Christie or reread Watership Downs.
The line that got me in the trailer was “reading isn’t the opposite of doing, it’s the opposite of dying.”
I’ll repose my friend’s question, because I’d love to hear your suggestions: What book would you like to have read to you or your family member at the end of life?