Friday, May 1, 2020

A GOOD DEATH :: Margaret Rice

A version of this review previously appeared in Shelf Awareness and is republished here with permission.

"Euthanasia" means dying well ("eu" means "well," "thanatos" means "death"). Although assisted death is controversial, Margaret Rice believes we can still strive for a "good death" with proper planning and care. Rice, an Australian journalist who has written for Australian Associated Press and been a medical writer for the Sydney Morning Herald and the Australian, realized how many questions she had while sitting at her mother's deathbed. Preparing for death as we are trying to live seems difficult and somewhat counterintuitive, but information and a little groundwork can make the transition easier for the dying and for those left behind.

To assist in the endeavor, Rice has written a "gentle, practical guide for dying." In straightforward but sensitive prose, A Good Death suggests an 11-step guide to death, based on an ancient Latin text and associated woodcut pictures (the ars moriendi) kept at the British Museum. Rice guides readers through each step, whether attending to someone who is dying or preparing for one's own death. The steps are both practical (i.e., the "housework" of planning ahead, dealing with medical staff, pain relief) and spiritual (learning how to say goodbye and talking about how we will die).

Rice presses for change in perceptions about death--which for many is a taboo topic--in order to ease the literal and emotional pain that surrounds it. A Good Death offers a compassionate and valuable set of tools that can help us face and embrace the inevitable.

STREET SENSE: As I get older and start to lose more people in my circle, people in my circle lose people, and I ponder my own demise, I'm more concerned about how to help those who are dying and how to face my own death, especially if it's a known, slow process. This book has really practical advice that I think is helpful for those on all sides of the death equation. Perhaps a better read before you're facing a particular circumstance, but a good book to have on standby any day.

COVER NERD SAYS:  I like that this cover makes clear what the subject is and the image isn't a dark downer. I like the symbolism of the shade in the window and the bird makes me happy. Death is always hard, but this cover makes me feel there is helpful, positive material inside.

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About Malcolm Avenue Review

I was lucky enough to be born and raised in a nifty, oak-shaded ranch house on Malcolm Avenue, a wide-laned residential street with little through traffic, located amid the foothills of Northern California. It was on that street and in that house I learned most of my adolescent life lessons, and many grown-up ones to boot. Malcolm Avenue was "home" for more than thirty years.

It was on Malcolm Avenue, through and with my family and the other families that made up our neighborhood of characters, that I first learned about and gained an appreciation for the things I continue to love the most to this day: music, animals, photography, sports, television/movies and, of course, books.

I owe a debt of gratitude to that life on Malcolm Avenue. It gave me a sense of community and friendship, support and adventure. For better and worse, life on that street likely had the biggest impact on the person I've become. So this blog, and the things I write here, are all, at their base level, a little bit of a love letter to Malcolm Avenue.


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