How can we even begin to grasp what it means to have lost 150,000 men and women to COVID-19?
At one point last week, it meant one person was dying every minute of the day and night.
We begin to appreciate the trauma when we think of individual lives and communities. Last week, national news focused on one small town in the southern tip of Texas where loved ones’ remains were stacked like cordwood in a refrigerated semi-trailer parked behind a funeral home.
If you have lost a loved one, you don’t need such news stories. You are telling your own story—perhaps about a kind nurse holding a smartphone in the ICU as your Mom or Dad, Grandpa or Grandma died. “Angels emerging among us” is the theme of this week’s ReadTheSpirit cover story by Benjamin Pratt.
We are familiar with these themes of caregiving and grief. Our publishing house’s writers, including Ben and many others, have been producing helpful books for many years. Here are a few of them …
A Book For The Front-Line HealthCare Workers and In-Home Caregivers
“A Guide For Caregivers: Keeping Your Spirit Healthy When Your Caregiver Duties and Responsibilities Are Dragging You Down” In one out of three households, someone is a caregiver: women and men who give of body, mind and soul to care for the well being of others. These millions need help, more than financial and medical assistance. They need daily, practical help in reviving their spirits and avoiding burnout. Who are these caregivers? They are folks who have lived this tough life and felt the agonies and the boredom, yet they have extended compassion with a gentle word or a tender touch. As caregivers, they know anger, frustration, joy, laughter, purpose, mortality and immortality. This book is drawn from the wisdom of many caregivers and we have taken their advice: these are short, easy-to-read sections packed with wisdom and practical help! This book is designed to let readers jump in almost anywhere and explore at their own pace. Do you know a front-line worker who could use some advice getting through this pandemic and its aftermath? Please consider gifting this book to them or suggest it for a small-group study at your place of worship.
Looking For A Gift For Those Who Are Grieving?
“Never Long Enough: Finding comfort and hope amidst grief and loss” by Rabbi Joseph H. Krakoff and Dr. Michelle Y. Sider is a unique book about the end of life. Rabbi Joseph H. Krakoff and artist Dr. Michelle Y. Sider brought together their many years of professional expertise with families. Krakoff drew on lessons learned in many years of counseling adults and children wrestling with death, grief and remembrance. Sider’s years working as an artist, arts educator and psychologist influenced her approach in creating evocative images that demonstrate how art can help to unlock emotions and heal the heart. Together, they crafted an interactive keepsake book for families and friends, complete with pages to add personal reflections thereby transforming the book into an individualized tribute to a loved one.
Never Long Enough is designed to be read along with someone nearing the end of life — or, it can be read by mourners after a death. Whenever this book is opened, it becomes an active invitation for conversation, lifting up memories and preserving the legacy of someone’s life. Never Long Enough is the perfect gift for a grieving person or family.
“For many years, I’ve been working with families to guide them through honest conversations about the legacy and the values that remain even as someone we love dies,” Krakoff says. “This text has already comforted so many families through this difficult, emotionally charged time.”
“I’ve seen how art can help people express themselves, bring out their feelings and tell stories. By weaving the words and art together, I hope the reader will move slowly through the pages and reflect deeply on the words. Reading and responding to this book as an individual or with loved ones becomes a very compelling and helpful experience.” says Sider.
Krakoff originally developed the thought-provoking text while in Rabbinical School at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City. As he shared that text with families, he realized that powerful imagery would heighten the healing process of reflection. Sider, inspired by the text, envisioned pairing phrases in the poem to original art. Using various techniques, she created stirring images that powerfully illuminate the text, are inclusive of different ethnicities, religions and relationships and culminate in a final, powerful blend.
Never Long Enough begins with a dedication page to fill in: “This book is presented to: ___________________.” Quantity purchasers of Never Long Enough can customize the front cover with a logo and the inside with a sponsor’s note — perhaps from a hospital, hospice, house of worship or funeral home who are providing this resource to families.
Want Help Getting Through The Different Stages of Grief?
Everyone dies. Every family grieves. People are terrified of admitting that we are aging, let alone dying. Many families get stuck in patterns of grief and suffer as friends move on with life. In his “Guide For Grief: Help in surviving the stages of grief and bereavement after a loss,” the Rev. Rodger Murchison brings years of pastoral experience and study, sharing recommendations from both scripture and the latest research into loss and bereavement. This guide’s perspective is Christian, but all families will benefit from these well-tested principles. Each chapter ends with an inspiring prayer that readers can use in the journey we all will take through grief to wholeness.
Throughout his ministry, Dr. Murchison sat with men, women and children dealing with grief in every setting you can envision—from living rooms and hospital rooms to funeral homes and church offices. Throughout his academic career, he tapped into the work of leading researchers and popular authors working on grief and loss. As you read Chapter 1, What Happens When We Die? you can almost hear the warm, deep voice of Dr. Murchison reassuring you, providing insights into faith and psychology and leading you toward suggestions for taking your own next steps.
Are You Curious about “Dying Well”?
“Dying Well: The Resurrected Life of Jeanie Wylie-Kellermann” is a loving memoir about the life, illness, death and resurrection freedom of Christian mother, writer and community activist Jeanie Wylie-Kellermann. The book’s first half focuses on her inspiring life, including her activism, journalism and documentary filmmaking. The second half follows her glioblastoma brain cancer, when Jeanie chose a process of “dying well” involving family and community.
Reviewers describe the book’s mix of letters, poetry and stories as “flashes of raw beauty and abject brilliance.”
The theologian Walter Brueggemann writes, “Of course all of us are precious in God’s sight. But some of ‘all of us’ stand out because of their freedom, their courage and their tenacity. We call them ‘saints.’ Jeanie Wylie-Kellermann was one such. She embodied gospel passion that led her beyond herself to a rich network of justice and restoration.”
The book was written by Jeanie’s husband Bill Wylie-Kellermann, also a nationally known social-justice activist and writer—and her partner in many social justice causes over the years. A great summary of the book can be found in the first eight words Bill wrote: “This book is verily an event of community.” That choice of “verily,” which evokes memories stretching back to the age of Chaucer, was no accident.
In these 425 pages, Bill begins by chronicling Jeanie’s robust life and then he shares many equally inspiring stories about the seven-year progress from diagnosis of a glioblastoma until her death. In “verily” on that first page, Bill is signaling to readers that this book is as much about memory as it is about this couple’s cutting-edge, social-justice activism.
Early reviewers repeatedly praised Dying Well as a profound love story about the two writer-activists who led a tumultuous life at the barricades of many justice issues—and then shared in an equally inspiring quest for healing and eventually after many years a graceful death. Ultimately, though, this book expands into an invitation for readers to remember: Remember a real love story you’ve known of an impassioned couple who became impassioned parents. Remember the best of family life. And remember, when the arc of life is closing its path in this tangible world—remember how loving families used to care for the dying and also the mourners in the humble surroundings of home.
“As readers experience our story, many of them are going to remember things about their own families. In our collective memory, in our community memory, we all know a lot more about family life as it shapes the eventual process of death and dying than we realize,” Bill Wylie-Kellermann said in an interview about his book. “Talk to your relatives, especially the older people, and you’ll find we’re not that far removed from vigils for loved ones in parlors, back before the funeral industry took over most of this process from us. These family-based and community-based stories of caring for the dying, right up through the vigil and funeral—that’s a memory only a generation or two removed from most of us. These memories are still in our bones. We still can come together as family and community in ways that once were so natural for us. This story isn’t as much about pushing some new agenda about dying well as it is remembering the power of community and family that we can reclaim.”
“Reading these pages, the love will jump right off the page,” writes their daughter, the writer-activist Lydia Wylie-Kellermann in her Foreword to the book. “I hope that within these pages, we all find a bit of your own story and a friend on the journey.”
“Dying Well: The Resurrected Life of Jeanie Wylie-Kellermann” is published by Cass Community Publishing House, a division of Cass Community Social Services based in Detroit, Michigan. If you would like to purchase the book directly from them, click the link directly above. The proceeds will benefit Cass Community projects and services.
Many Ways to Order
Note: The books above are also available on BarnesandNoble.com and the Front Edge Publishing bookstore. Books purchased through the Front Edge Publishing bookstore result in a 15% higher royalty for the author. Prefer to shop elsewhere? You’ll find our books listed on an international array of online retailers. Simply Google a title and author to discover more options.
THE PHOTOGRAPH accompanying today’s story is provided via Wikimedia Commons via Creative Commons licensing, thanks to photographer David Swait. If you are sharing this column with your audience, you can also include the photo if you also add this credit.