A faith-infused guide for the end of life.
Lynch, who oversees a large Catholic parish and has officiated at over 1,500 funerals, has extensive firsthand knowledge of the peculiar stresses and revelations that come to the dying and their loved ones. With co-author Mariconda, he’s written a manual on this strangest of times in anyone’s life—after a terminal diagnosis but before death itself. He attempts to assure his readers that the depth of their religious faith is irrelevant since an amorphous spiritual connection binds us all—“a natural thrust toward wholeness, rooted in our oneness with all that is, was, and will be.” But these assurances notwithstanding, the book abounds with Judeo-Christian assumptions and is probably best suited for that readership (“Regardless of spiritual practice or lack of it we are all, at the center of our being, one with God,” for example, will hardly do Hindus—to say nothing of atheists—much good). But even so, Lynch and Mariconda’s broad-based, narrative-driven work ranges from absorbing accounts of encounters with dying men and women (some of these encounters are tough reading; the dying can be their own harshest critics) to engaging meditations on the human reluctance to think about death. The string of personal anecdotes well-illustrates the variety of reactions people have when encountering the final months of their lives; these stories form a vital counterpoint to the authors’ more philosophical thoughts on the subjects of terminal illness, dying, death, and the meaning of life, which is never far from the main current of the book: “We’re all, in varying degrees, handicapped by the rubble that litters the inner fields of our hearts.”
An expansive, richly sympathetic book about the last and least-understood phase of life.