Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Lessons for the Living, Gifts for the Dying

Advent is a time when we think of birth and beginnings, stars and shepherds, decorations and Christmas carols, trees and gifts. But, sometimes, illness and death are a part of the holidays, as well. Just before Thanksgiving my son-in-law's family experienced the loss of two family members within a week of each other: one, the sudden, unexpected death of a beloved uncle; the other, the natural culmination of the long life of a grandmother. They are fortunate in that they have a large, close-knit family who know how to come together in difficult times for mutual comfort and support.

Others are not so lucky. In our culture we try to distance ourselves from death. We closet it away in hospitals and nursing homes, couch it in euphemisms, and sanitize it so we can put thoughts of our own mortality out of our minds instead of recognizing it as a normal, sometimes even welcome, part of life. So, as we think about giving, what can we give to the dying, and what can we learn from them?

Today, I would like to introduce you to someone who transformed his own personal experience of a cancer diagnosis, and the attendant fear and grieving, into a means of helping others, and, in the process, learned some valuable lessons which he is now sharing through his new book and a series of videos. I met Stan recently through Facebook, and now, I'd like you to meet him, too.

Stan Goldberg is a Professor Emeritus of Communicative Disorders at San Francisco State University. He has published six books and numerous articles dealing with loss and end of life issues. His latest book is Lessons for the Living: Stories of Forgiveness, Gratitude, and Courage at the End of Life. The MyShelf book reviewer says "it is a book to change the way you'll live the rest of your life."

Stan is also a regular columnist on opentohope.com, examiner.com, and the Hospice Volunteer Association's quarterly magazine. Other articles also appear on his website: http://stangoldbergwriter.com. He consults on issues of change and leads workshops for adults whose lives were suddenly and dramatically changed. He has been a bedside hospice volunteer for seven years and currently serves with Pathways Home Health Care and Hospice. He is the 2009 Hospice Volunteer Association's Volunteer of the Year.

When Stan was diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer, instead of giving up or giving in to self-pity, he decided to learn about dying from those who were experiencing it by facing his fear and becoming a hospice volunteer. Being with, caring for, and listening to those at the end of life taught him much more than how to die--it changed how he viewed not only death, but life. In Lessons for the Living he shares some of those stories and lessons with the rest of us and, in so doing, reminds us that death is as natural as birth, and by understanding it and allowing it to be our teacher, our remaining time on earth can be transformed into a more joyful, meaningful experience.

In addition to his book, Stan has just added a series of twelve videos called "Helping Loved Ones Die," which you can access through his website or by going directly to YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5SXtTTeHvGU&feature=related. In this series, Stan offers specific ways to make a loved one's last days and moments more comfortable and more meaningful so they can have closure and be at peace. I can think of no better gift to give them than that.

For more information about Stan, his books and articles, and to read an excerpt from the book, go to his website: http://stangoldbergwriter.com. His book is also available on Amazon and other outlets.

1 comment:

  1. My thanks to Stan Goldberg for letting me feature his book and videos in my blog today. I encourage my readers to leave a comment. Moderation is activated to keep spam out, but your comments are welcome.