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Summary of Final Gifts I should start by saying that when someone we love is terminally ill, we are often unprepared to deal with the experience. But the dying person has much to tell us and give to us. Final Gifts, a book written by Maggie Callanan, Patricia Kelley, is a deeply moving, groundbreaking book that teaches us how to recognize and "decode" the often symbolic communications of those on the verge of death. Maggie Callanan, Patricia Kelley show families, friends, and other caregivers how to listen to the dying, how to understand and accept what they wish or need to share, and how to learn from this awesome life event in ways that bring understanding, comfort, intimacy, and peace. Callanan and Kelley in their book Final Gifts describe a phenomenon they term "Nearing Death Awareness" (NDA) -- which resembles somewhat the near-death experience sometimes reported by individuals revived after being clinically dead. Nearing Death Awareness, however, develops slowly, and, according to the book, the dying person seemingly drifts for a time between two worlds.
Attempts by the dying to communicate about this awareness, often expressed in symbolic language or gestures, may be misunderstood by those around them, who dismiss the expressions as mere "confusion and oftentimes might make mistakes by trying to interfere in the process. According to Maggie Callanan, Patricia Kelley, dying messages fall into two categories: descriptions of what they are experiencing (such as the places they see, the presence of others no longer alive, or their knowledge of when death will occur); requests for what the dying need for a peaceful death (a reconciliation, for instance, or the removal of some barrier to departure). To illustrate, Callanan and Kelley include numerous examples of Nearing Death Awareness from their years of caring for the dying. And they offer practical advice not only to involved family members but also to professional caregivers on how to recognize, understand, and respond to a dying person's messages. The book is not cheerful at all and meticulously strives to explore the enigma of dying. The mistake that many family members make is to trust the interpretations of strangers too much when it comes to what their loved ones are doing or saying.
The sad truth is that learning about dying has been a fairly long process for health care givers as well as family members. Too many medical personnel have been too eager to consign communications which they do not understand to the realm of nonsense- delirium, hallucination, etc. , instead of following up those communications like good clinicians are supposed to. When family members and other caregivers begin to treat their dying loved ones as though they still had something of value to communicate, they often find ways to be of immeasurable comfort and to be comforted by their loved ones in the last stages of life. The book is divided into two parts. The first focuses on the actual experience of death and the ways in which dying people communicate that experience. Chapter headings in this section signal some typical kinds of communications family members may hear: Preparing for Travel or Change: "I'm Getting Ready to Leave Im departing for good"; Being in the Presence of Someone Not Alive: "I'm Not Alone I see faces people"; Seeing a Place: "I See Where I'm Going I see the light at the end of the tunnel"; Knowing When Death Will Occur: "It Will Be When...
it will come to me when", etc. , etc. The second half of the book deals with communications by dying people that express what is needed for a good death. Needing Reconciliation: "I Need to Make Peace with... Im not peaceful with"; Being Held Back: "I'm Stuck in Between... Something hold me"; Nonverbal Communications: "My Actions Speak for Me... Remember what was in Vietnam"; Symbolic Dreams: "I Dreamed About...
I saw an apparition"; Choosing a Time: "The Time Is Right I am ready for it", and so on and so forth. I should note here that the phenomena described above by Maggie Callanan, Patricia Kelley in their Final Gifts may possess something of a surreal quality for readers, especially when they are divorced from real circumstances and real people. They can also be of immeasurable value when and if we find ourselves struggling to deal with the unfamiliar and distressing circumstances of saying goodbye to a dying family member or friend. What the authors are suggesting about interpreting these kinds of communications isn't some sort of psychic reading. Again, their suggestion is simple.
Instead of dismissing statements that don't make sense, we ought to respond to them as though the dying person were really saying something of meaning that we haven't quite caught on to. The results of this simple act are often astonishing and the book is full of examples of children watching their parents die, yet not very saddened because they did what Maggie Callanan, Patricia Kelley recommended them to do and thus, achieved peace for themselves and the dying loved ones. Pros of the book: Essential information on saying goodbye to life and loved ones; clear presentation; excellent examples. Cons of the book: Focuses almost exclusively on longer dying experiences.
Not applicable in every circumstance (such as accidents). Reading this book, creates some sort of a specific routine for treating those wholl die soon, thus making it rather artificial and sad. The Bottom Line of the book: Important information for everyone interested in helping and being helped through the dying of a loved one. Communication between the dying and their loved ones about the fact of death is an important factor in helping folks to have a good death, and in helping their families to move through the transition in healthy ways.
Bibliography: Maggie Callanan, Patricia Kelley, The Final Gifts
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