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And is she really diseased? Isn't this just her aged body saying - enough. I have worked long enough, and now I wish to be comfortable as I leave this life. Despite the list of diagnoses that go on and on, and the list of surgeries that go on and on, and the list of medications that is even longer - isn't she dying of old age? It's just that simple. She isn't dying of disease.

She is dying of the natural cycle of life - not just of human life, but of all life. She is dying of the cosmic principle that says - ye shalt not last! She is dying because nothing in this world is eternal, and even thousands of years old trees must one day die, and the lion eats the gazelle, and the cat chases the mouse, and age comes after us all. So while she lies there and the healthcare team gently urges the daughter to move her mother to a hospice, I can't help but feel that somewhere along the line, by pathologizing, the dignity of old age - a dignity that is from understanding, not from the wheezing and heaving and overall grotesqueness of the last few months of life - is lost.

We all must die, and death will most likely be awful, and painful, and we will very likely be surrounded by strangers. And some deaths are a tragedy, while others are just this: that Life folds her hands and places them in her lap, and her sister Death opens hers and says to us, Embrace me now, for your earthly journey is complete, so come home.

And the worms will eat your body but the face of God hangs eternal, looking over it all. Feb 04, Sarah rated it liked it Shelves: human-body. So, naturally, after the death of my grandfather on January 26th, one of my first instincts was to find the right story for this time in my life. Published in , this book is obviously not reflective of knowledge gained in the last 25 years. It would be interesting to read an update knowing all that we do now about these same diseases, despite the fact that several seem to remain quite mysterious. He also explored the concept of hope and what that means in the context of terminal diagnoses.

My grandfather was 89 years old. Many things killed him, and now I have a better grasp of the mechanisms by which he died. Once again the right book found me at the right time in my life, and I am grateful. Important book I read this as my 80 year old mom was rapidly dying from brain cancer. Some of the technical descriptions of major bodily functions are gripping, especially from the underlying perspective of their eventual failure towards death. It was comfort in the brutal transparency and absolute universal reality of death as someone I loved so deeply was Important book I read this as my 80 year old mom was rapidly dying from brain cancer.

It was comfort in the brutal transparency and absolute universal reality of death as someone I loved so deeply was actually experiencing it. A must read. Jun 06, Charity rated it really liked it. The purpose of this book is to help people have reasonable expectations about death and is a plea for more empathetic doctoring; namely more family practitioners and hospice workers.

The author explains the physical processes that occur during death, starting with the process of aging. He then goes into detail about the ways the body can shut down and why. This may be too much information for some and although a little morbid, I found it well worth understanding. He also covers some of the most The purpose of this book is to help people have reasonable expectations about death and is a plea for more empathetic doctoring; namely more family practitioners and hospice workers. He also covers some of the most common types of death scenarios.

I agree with the author that most people do not know how to treat those who are dying or what is normal even. Our expectations namely that people we can always be cured, that hope is lost if the disease is found to be incurable, or that their is a 'right' way to go can affect how we view and thus react as friends, family, and doctors around those dying. The peoples' stories in the book brought tears to my eyes and made me remember people who have died recently. I feel better prepared to recognize death and to react when I see it.

Jul 15, Jim Gleason rated it it was amazing Shelves: reviewed , all-time-favorite , medical , self-help. Note: this author quickly became my all time favorite writer, leading me to buy all of his wonderful books, enjoying each and every one of them! Surgeons view of death from personal, physical and emotional views 2. Lot said about extending life beyond what is reasonable, due to dr Note: this author quickly became my all time favorite writer, leading me to buy all of his wonderful books, enjoying each and every one of them!

Lot said about extending life beyond what is reasonable, due to drs wanting to solve the Riddle 4. Interesting seeing his views and contrasting them with his actions when it came to his own brother dying of cancer — admits a mistake, very human 5. In the same year as my own heart transplant, an amazing book was published titled: How We Die. Let me say up front that nowhere in this book is the organ transplant subject or words mentioned. By the time you finish reading this amazing book, you will change the way you view your own mortality and how you expect to die and face that final moment.

Crammed with intriguing scientific findings and useful facts, as well as case histories of dying patients whom Nuland Doctors: The Biography of Medicine has treated, his report is imbued with wisdom rooted in a belief that the dignity we seek in dying must be found in the art of living life to the fullest. Thought provoking and humane, his is not the usual syrup-and-generality approach to this well-worn topic. Fundamental to it are Nuland's experiences with the deaths of his aunt, his older brother, and a longtime patient.

With each of these deaths, he made what he now sees as mistakes of denial, false hope, and refusal to abide by a patient's wishes. Disease, not death, is the real enemy, he reminds us, despite the facts that most deaths are unpleasant, painful, or agonized, and to argue otherwise is to plaster over the truth.

The doctor, Nuland stresses, should instill in dying patients the hope not for a miraculous cure but for the dignity and high quality of the remainder of their lives as well as of what they have meant--and will continue to mean--to family, friends, and colleagues. Humans are probably the only animals capable of understanding their mortality and envisioning the day of their death.

Sherwin B. Nuland shows, however, that while we conceptualize our eventual demise, most people have unrealistic expectations of their death. Misconceptions abound. The expectation of a noble death with loved ones gathered, final farewells, and then eternal slumber forms a common though inaccurate mental image of what many people look forward to in their final moments.

A Psalm of Life by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow | Poetry Foundation

There are several themes that permeate Nuland's books. One theme is that death, like birth, is a messy process. Though we may wish for the noble death, more likely we will die slowly from a lack of oxygen in the brain. This, in turn, will result from a failing heart, lungs, or blood vessels. Death does not come easy, and although the final moment is sometime serene and tranquil, months or weeks of painful physical degeneration often precedes it.

The second theme in Nuland's book is that death is not only inevitable, it is necessary. While life should be fought for as long as possible, we should all realize that ultimately the battle will be lost. We will die. Nuland takes a dim view of heroic attempts to extend life beyond the point where the body has simply failed and death becomes not only inevitable, but also the proper way for nature to renew herself. Nature uses death to clear the way for new generations, and just as we cannot experience the green buds of spring unless the leaves from last season fall to the ground, the very nature of life demands that when death becomes inevitable we exit the stage for the next generation.

Nuland's third point is that the measure of a life is not found so much in how we die, but in how we live and how we are remembered. Few of us can control the way in which we die. For some of us it will be quick, for others death will linger and the process will be slow and painful. Some will find humiliation in the loss of bodily functions or mental facilities. However it comes to anyone of us, death is just a part of our lives and the real meaning in death is in the life remembered. If by our work and pleasure, our triumphs and our failures, each of us is contributing to an evolving process of continuity not only of our species but of the entire balance of nature, the dignity we create in the time allotted to us becomes a continuum with the dignity we achieve by the altruism of accepting the necessity of death.

Oct 03, Abby rated it really liked it Shelves: nonfiction , mary-karr , national-book-award , health-and-body. A very well-written, unsentimental account of how it is that we actually die, what happens in our bodies, and which ailments are most likely to kill us. As Dr. Nuland points out, waxing eloquent about death is a very common theme among artists, but it is rare that we get to hear about death from someone whose actual business is living and dying. A thoughtful and important perspective.

Aug 01, Holly rated it it was amazing Shelves: non-fiction. Since we all share this experience, this is a must read. Honest and realistic yet still very tender in its approach. I read pertinent chapters to my Mom while she was dying of liver cancer.

How We Die: Reflections of Life's Final Chapter

We both appreciated the insights. It empowered her to maintain a voice and make choice in a situation where she could easily have just gotten swept along by the current. Our lovely Hospice Nurse recommended it and it was a gift. Now that she has died, I can look back and say "We did right by our Mom". I do want to actually finish it sometime. I think it's important to have accurate information about the process of dying instead of holding on to myths about what it's like to end this life.

Dying is indeed messy, painful and undignified business. I'm grateful that this detailed account of how different diseases kill us is out there. Just wasn't ready to read it all right now. I read this book because my folks are 89 and having difficulties, plus many aunts, uncles and pretty close friends died this last year and another friend wrote a very short, but very compelling review here on Goodreads Reena Kapoor - Thanks Reena. But reading it, I found many more reasons why it was worth spending the time to savor it. Here are just some of the reasons, even though I know 6 Jan.

Here are just some of the reasons, even though I know this is a fairly long list: - The opening description of the author's contact with his first patient The author has a fantastic style of writing. Wise relevant words from this ancient philosopher. His descriptions were indeed shocking, but not like a slasher movie. They were clinical but also very compassionate.

Hard to describe how he did it, but you will probably be amazed and impressed and enlightened too. This knowledge can turn into power, since it takes away the terror of the unknown! Think about this. Isn't the terror of the unknown what many people are so frightened about? When they learn about the facts of what actually happens, they become stronger and more able to deal with it. I remember how frightened I was about cataract surgery before I went through it.

Well, the Dr. Bingo - that did the trick. He also put some extra info and videos of actual operations and diagrams, etc.


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Those lessened my remaining anxiety even more. All this was in addition to the verbal descriptions of everything from him and his assistants. That is partly what this book does too for dying people and their loved ones who care so much about them. Very insightful and helpful for all. Not always right, but I will explain my critique a bit later.

Some questionable things about the book: It was written in , so quite a few things have changed since then, technology, medicines, techniques, procedures, mores, economic conditions such as the general wealth of society, etc. He gave his readers an update in the edition I read's final "Coda" chapter, and that helped a lot in clarifying what he thought was important to change, what did and did not change and some specific things that put his philosophy in more clarity than in the rest of the book.

And for the most part, I was MUCH more disappointed about his values and lack of insight or foolish ideas on economics, and what can and does make conditions better for medical patients in general and on many specifics. It is NOT just about capital and companies. Because the author was ignorant of basic economics, he misstated some very important problems and his "solutions" were well off the mark and some actually more harmful than helpful. Despite his wonderful economic insight when stating: "that perennial solvent of reluctance, a handful of dollars.

He far too often showed a very nasty bias against private voluntary economic incentives and benefits, especially vis a vis coercive government involvement. He seemed almost totally oblivious to coercive government mandates, licences, regulations, subsidies, etc. He conflated some bad reactions in the private sector with those government causes. Sure they do appear to be all mixed up and interrelated. But there are primary causes and secondary reactions. Confusing the two certainly causes harm by making things worse. That is not to say that his cautions for action on assisted suicide are not genuine and important, they are.

But he seemed to fudge certain issues in my mind. With proper medication and therapy, most of them would be relieved of the cloud of oppressive despair that colors all reason gray, would then realize that the edifice topples not quite so much as thought, and that hope of relief is less hopeless than it seemed. I have more than once seen a suicidal old person emerge from depression, and rediscovered thereby a vibrant friend. When such men or women return to a less despondent vision of reality, their loneliness seems to them less stark and their pain more bearable because life has become interesting again and they realize that there are people who need them.

Does a "very large proportion of the elderly" that commits suicide actually "suffer from quite remediable depression" - or are they just being more realistic than Dr. Nuland thinks? Is this statement true or just showing his arrogance at how realistically depressing some situations actually are? This was probably one of the worst things to hit the American public, the opposite of what Nuland believes.

But to understand why would take quite a bit. So other books and articles are needed. I have much more to say about this book, positive and negative, but I have gone on too long as it is. I bet you can tell that I recommend the book pretty highly. But don't read it without some caution, since he slips in some significant errors that can be harmful from time to time. As Hippocrates said: "First, do no harm. Here is the author on why he wrote the book, and the biggest value I got out of it, though I got more of this too, and really appreciated all: Early in the book: "I have written this book to demythologize the process of dying.

We may thus be better prepared to recognize the stations at which it is appropriate to ask for relief, or perhaps to begin contemplating whether to end the journey altogether. Apr 06, Arjun Ravichandran rated it liked it.

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The moth and flames - human beings and death ; Death is the worm at the heart of human consciousness, the janus that propels attraction as well as repulsion. One cultural defence amongst many against this scourge, is the hope for a "good death", ars moriendi the art of dying. But, midst the dispassionately clinical descriptions of oxygen starved muscles, atherosclerosis induced heart failure, trauma, and the other "doorways into death" through which nature finally achieves her grim objective, The moth and flames - human beings and death ; Death is the worm at the heart of human consciousness, the janus that propels attraction as well as repulsion.

But, midst the dispassionately clinical descriptions of oxygen starved muscles, atherosclerosis induced heart failure, trauma, and the other "doorways into death" through which nature finally achieves her grim objective, the author drawing on his years of medical practice shows how often death is something abrupt, painful, and very often humiliating and detrimental to the human spirit. Yet, death is not an enemy ; if our hope of salvaging dignity from death's final throes is more likely than not to be thwarted, the only measure of dignity that we can gain succour from is the decades of life that preceded it.

The art of dying is really the art of living. Death is not an enemy, because the tragedy of an individual demise, when seen in the larger context, is the triumph of nature's self-replenishing. We must die to give way to our children, as those before died for us. Midst this contemplation of life's painful finitude, lies a moral critique of modern day medicine. The latter seeks to dispute that life has a natural and inherent limit, and that when it is time to go, it is time to go. Modern day medicine suffers from an intellectual pride that is somewhat deaf to more personal and banal concerns of the patient at death's door ; treating every terminal disease as simply a puzzle to be solved runs the risk of ruinous medical expenses, a further erosion of dignity, and finally, precisely that which is most yearned to be avoided - an isolated death in the polished squalor of the modern hospital, where the majority of human beings at least in the developed world now expire.

A dispiriting text, yet profoundly affirmative - there are certain struggles that we cannot win, best we come to terms with it. Mar 12, Jill rated it really liked it Shelves: candidates , reads. I needed this book. Or maybe not at all. Over time, I simply forgot about them, until recently. Feb 13, Erica rated it really liked it. I will summarize this comforting and reflective collection of poetry with an excerpt from the last chapter When it's over, I want to say: all my life I was a bride married to amazement I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

Mary Oliver "A bride married to amazement: Is this not a string of words to bring tears to your eyes? Imagine living your life this way, heart and eyes open wide to the world, so much in love with the life you are given to live that you feel joined to it by h I will summarize this comforting and reflective collection of poetry with an excerpt from the last chapter Imagine living your life this way, heart and eyes open wide to the world, so much in love with the life you are given to live that you feel joined to it by holy sacrament, the sacrament of love.

This marriage, the one with your life, is indeed until death do you part, no second chances. View all 3 comments. Apr 13, Richard rated it really liked it. I have often wanted to understand poetry better. Usually, I understand commentary about poetry less than I do the actual poem. Housden is much more down to earth in his descriptions of the poems in this short book. I liked what he had to say about most of the poems. I needed to understand more what the poet had in mind.

An earthquake will destroy a sizable portion of the coastal Northwest. The question is when.

Housden points out to the reader that it is his interpretation, and that another person might have a different insight. This book is the last of a series of 4 books published by I have often wanted to understand poetry better. This book is the last of a series of 4 books published by Housden. I plan on looking for the others. I would recommend this book. Mar 14, Vivian rated it liked it.

Roger Housden has chosen ten actually eleven poems that have universal themes, and added his commentary on each. Sometimes the commentary solidified my thinking about the poem, other times I disagreed completely. It was a worthwhile read, although I'm not sure any of the poems will stick with me for my lifetime! This probably says more about me than about either the poems or the editorial comments!

Dec 05, Kathryn rated it it was amazing Shelves: , favorites , poetry. This little book is so good. There are ten poems written by ten different poets. Each poem is unique and for me, a novice, fairly easy to feel and understand. After the poem Roger Housden tells what the poem brings forth in him and gives background about the poet.

There are three other 10 poem books, this being the fourth in the series. Those I must read as well. May 01, Kerfe rated it really liked it Shelves: poetry , essays. I was interested to read Housden's commentary, to see how he articulated what drew him to choose each poem. He referenced other poets in his discussion, and his ideas seemed insightful without being pretentious. It made me go back and read each one with a different eye. I really liked seven of the ten, a pretty good percentage. Only one did not seem special to me at all. This is, Houseden says, the final book in his "10 poems" series.

And every one has included Mary Oliver. Sep 26, Ron rated it really liked it Shelves: poetry. This is a collection of 11 poems by various authors with a short essay behind each of them by the actual book author. I thought some of the poems were very good and some of them were just there. I'll probably look for a collection from at least three of the authors Dorianne Laux, James Wright, Naomi Shihab Nye since I really enjoyed their poems. Feb 26, Diane rated it liked it. Wonderful selection of poems by poets known and unknown to me.

I'll look for Roger Housden's other three books in the "Ten Poems to He generally sticks to his reflections on the poems he has chosen, rather than emphasizing a line by line analysis. Either approach is useful and I benefited from his. Sep 26, Nancy rated it it was ok. While I had heard of the authors of these poems, the actual poems chosen for this book were totally unfamiliar. After reading them, I can see why he chose them. You can read them over and over. They have meaning to everyone, regardless of your life situation.

Sep 29, Susan rated it it was amazing. This was a great book club read. Each of us had different poems. We could read them out loud and discuss them, but the author's insights added to the discussion. Made me want to read other books in the series.


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  • Feb 01, Laurel Deloria rated it it was ok Shelves: book-club-poetry , critique. Ten Poems to Last a Lifetime focuses on what it means to be truly human. In it, Roger Housden offers us poems on life and death, happiness, seeing ourselves in relation to the world, and, of course, the. Jan 06, rinabeana rated it really liked it Shelves: poetry.


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    • I liked that he was upfront about his ten poems to last a lifetime not necessarily being the same as my ten poems to last a lifetime. Some certainly had more of an impact on me than others. Sep 28, Esme rated it liked it. I read the poems, but skimmed or skipped the chapters talking about the poems, which I didn't find illuminating. Nov 09, Correen rated it really liked it. Beautiful poetry with reflective essays following each poem. Vuong is conscious that, without his work, the story of his family would seem to exist mostly in the form of uninterpreted bodies moving from one place to the next.

      Several of the poems position animals as shadow selves. A version of the first chapter was published, two years ago, as memoir, by this magazine. Little Dog grows up in Hartford with his traumatized mother and a schizophrenic grandmother. That tacit destination gives the narrative an invisible current, and embeds conflict in every word. In its first chapter, she hunches, at the age of forty-six, over Walmart coloring books, which have become her new obsession.

      Throughout the book, vignettes of his mistreatment light up and go out swiftly, like matches. As a child in Hartford, Little Dog accompanies his mother and grandmother to the grocery store, where they try to buy oxtail without knowing the word for it. The women moo and shake their butts, making a joke of themselves for the butchers; they leave with an armful of Wonder Bread and mayonnaise that Rose has mistaken for butter. He will not grow up to work in a nail salon, asthmatic from the toluene and formaldehyde fumes. Often, the creatures are fleeing or transforming.

      Like your mom did last night. When Trevor notices him, at the farm, Little Dog is shocked to have been seen; Rose taught him to protect himself by staying invisible. Trevor is addicted to OxyContin, which was prescribed to him after a dirt-bike accident. A martyr?