Monday, January 20, 2014

Book Review: "Hospice Voices"

Here on Digital Doorway, I've reviewed many books written by healthcare professionals, including doctors and nurses. In contrast, "Hospice Voices: Lessons For Living at the End of Life" is a memoir written by a lay hospice volunteer who shares with us his moving story of spending time with those facing their mortality. It's a beautiful book, deeply instructive to the professional and layperson alike.
The author, Eric Lindner, was a hospice novice, with no healthcare experience of any kind to guide him. On his website, he writes:
I rediscovered my passion for volunteering quite by accident. In February 2009, I was walking back from getting coffee and a slice of lemon cake in my hometown of Warrenton, Virginia, when I notice this hole-in-the-wall hospice. I’d been living in my small town for nearly twenty years and I had no idea Hospice Support of Fauquier County existed. From the outside, it looked sketchy. But on the inside? Inside I met the Executive Director, Joy LeBaron, and she led me to an incredibly joyful, awe-inspiring new priority in my life.

I met my first patient in June 2009. Bob Zimmerman was saddled with cancer and Alzheimer’s—but blessed with this sparkling, ebullient attitude. He spoke six languages and had done wonders in the Peace Corps and later, in the early days of the Vietnam War, alongside the Green Berets. Bob showed me how compassion is, by far, the most potent form of passion. He turned guns to butter. This dying man floored me, humbled me, revivified me, and sent my spirits soaring. I left after my very first visit knowing I had to make hospice volunteering more than just an ‘if I have the time thing’. Thank goodness for that coffee and lemon cake.
Hospice Voices is a truly beautiful work of love, written in heartfelt and genuine prose that clearly demonstrates Lindner's love and respect for his clients, as well as his clear-eyed views on mortality and illness, not to mention his own internal process during the course of his volunteering. 

Rather than the words of a professional, Lindner's book is a love song written by a layperson; a love song infused with understanding, pathos, authenticity and raw honesty.

Sharing deeply about his family, his own life, as well as his young daughter's experience of being diagnosed with thyroid cancer, the author's personality shines brilliantly through his flowing, simple yet moving prose.

I highly recommend "Hospice Voices" for anyone who has experienced the death of a loved, expects to experience the death of a loved one, or who thinks that they themselves may die one day. Does that seem like I'm recommending it to everyone? I most certainly am.

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