Books and Movies to Help Us Along Our Journey Toward the End of Life

Mary Newkirk, Adult Services Librarian

Manhattan Public Library offers a wealth of life-long learning opportunities, and Manhattan is replete with life-long learners.    I have had the pleasure of becoming friends with many special life-long learners through the library’s Outreach Services.
As an Adult Services librarian, I have met wonderful people who have enjoyed reading into their nineties and up until their imminent death.   Adult Services librarians deliver books to many of their residences when they find that they can no longer safely drive to the library.  Many have moved into retirement or assisted living facilities where we continue to offer either homebound delivery right to their doors or a rotating collection of large print books that is located in their centers’ libraries.
Recently, I have experienced the passing of three wonderful homebound patrons.  I miss my regular visits with them.  In December I also lost my mother who spent the last two weeks of her life in the gracious care of our local Good Shepherd Hospice House staff.   Freshly reminded that we are all touched by this end-of-life subject, I have compiled a short list of books and movies available at Manhattan Public Library which can help us deal with this sensitive issue.
final gifts 2Final gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs, and Communications of the Dying by Maggie  Callanan.   This book was available in each room at Manhattan’s Hospice House and was highly recommended.  My sister and I appreciated the way the authors, both hospice nurses with many years of experience,  walked the reader through the experiences of hospice patients and showed how we can help them live full lives till the very end.
The Last Pilgrimage: My Mother’s Life and Our Journey to Saying Goodbye by Linda Daly is a very new book first available this May.  This is a story of a high-profile mother/daughter relationship as the mother is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and seeks a cure.  Living a charmed life, the mother Nancy was married to a Warner Brothers’ executive and, after a divorce, married the mayor of Los Angeles.  The author, daughter Linda Day (a former teacher) is very involved in philanthropic work.  The two traveled around the country seeking treatment and after a last chance try with a visiting Brazilian healer, headed home in a rented rv and faced the end of life together.
Making Rounds with Oscar by David Dosa has been out for a couple of years, so if you missed it earlier,  try this heartwarming story of a sweet nursing home cat that has the ability to seek out and comfort  those who are very close to death.
Now a novel that stretches a bit to fit this topic but happens to be my newest personal favorite novel –Calling Me Home  by Julie Kibler.  I could not put this tragic loveCapture story down without continuing to dwell on the power of love and the tragedy of racial discrimination. In the South during the 1930′s, a wealthy white doctor’s daughter, Isabelle, falls in love with the handsome black son of their family maid. This story combines two time periods,  as years later now eighty-nine year old Isabelle, asks her young black hairdresser, Dorrie, to drive her to a funeral  1000 miles from their homes. The two women share their troubled family stories with Isabelle’s secrets unfolding at the same time Dorrie’s teenage son calls with his own life-changing problems. Calling Me Home kept me mesmerized till the very end. I hope for more by this debut author.
Tapestry of Fortunes by Elizabeth Berg is another new fiction book that touches on this same topic of death.  This time it is the loss of a best friend that sends a middle-aged motivational speaker seeking monumental  changes in her own life.  She puts her career aside, sells her home and furnishings and finds a group of women to share a home and a road trip.  She spends time as a hospice volunteer and we sit through a training session on how to be a good listener to those who are terminally ill.  This beautifully written novel is a sensitive and hopeful story of women supporting each other through life’s trials.
bestEntertaining movies with aging issues : How to Live Forever- Results May Vary, The Trip to Bountiful, On Golden Pond, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Autumn Spring, Cocoon and Lovely, Still.
In honor of their memory,  I dedicate this column to Dr. George Wilcoxon, Jean Hansen and Norma Morrison and all the other wonderful patrons of the Homebound Program at Manhattan Public Library.

Posted in: For Adults, Mercury Column

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