Every once in a while one reads a book which feels, from the first page through the last, as if one has been handed a great gift. One feels honored that the author has shared her story, has even bared her soul. Such a book is Nancy Jewel Poer's Living Into Dying: A Journal of Spiritual and Practical Deathcare for Family and Community.
"Deathcare" - this says it all. Nancy speaks of "home deaths", comparing them in many ways to homebirths and, like homebirths, clearly recognizing with no judgment that deathcare at home is not for everyone, not for even family. But even if it is hard for one to imagine caring for a dying friend or neighbor or relative at home, the sheer joy and reverence with which Nancy describes and shares such experiences is enough to at least help one consider the possibility and to honor the choices that people like the Poers have made.
This book is a treasure - it is filled with gentle humor and warmth, great wisdom and humility. Nancy's great compassion and deep spiritual understanding fill one with awe as she shares personal stories and experiences and also gives sound practical advice about the legal and hands-on aspects of caring for the dying and dead. She is an anthroposophist and comes clearly from this spiritual perspective, but in the kind of welcoming way that would make anyone from any spiritual background feel she was speaking to them.
The book is full of photos of family members who have died and of the beautiful ceremonies and rituals she and her community created to help them cross the threshold. It is an awesome experience to look upon photos of teenagers making coffins for their grandparents and other children carefully decorating the room where the body will lie and still other pictures of young children waving as they sit on the back of a flat-top pick-up bearing their family-member off to be buried.
Death is a part of life but one which is still hardly acknowledged except with fear. Haven't we all been touched by death? And yet it is so often not spoken about - and certainly rarely celebrated. This book is a gift to us all as we seek to create authentic family life and relationships - and as death is part of that, this book is an invaluable guide to helping us find our own relationship to this immensely important part of the human journey, one that is not to be feared.