Nancy Cobb, the host of a public radio interview program and author of the earlier work How They Met, believes that if we take the time to talk about our experiences of grief, an ad hoc community of mourners takes shape. Within this tribe, the living can connect with each other as well as reestablish their connection with the dead.
On the basis of this philosophy, Cobb bravely tells her own stories of loss and those of many of her friends. Her personal tragedies center on the suicide of her father to escape further deterioration from Alzheimer's; the death of her mother, also stricken with Alzheimer's, in a hospice setting 14 years later; and the loss of a close female friend due to cancer. Entering into her stories, one becomes part of a world in which the dead appear to the living as apparitions and energy presences, speak to the living in dreams, and manifest themselves symbolically through butterflies and plants, bugs, and birds.
Cobb's advice ranges from the original (such as evolving a core group, or healing force, around a cancer patient) to the platitudinous ( It is vital to acknowledge our feelings after a loved one dies, and Death is the great equalizer. ).
Along the way she offers readers inspiring quotes from various sources for example, a splendid poem by Jane Kenyon and excerpts from a sermon by William Sloan Coffin.
One side benefit of the book is seeing a hospice facility functioning as hospice is meant to function. With an expert nurse named Kathy as guide through her mother's nine-day stay, Cobb came to see hospice as a place where the ordinary dovetails with the sacred every day . . . our time in hospice was infused with miracles, ordinary miracles, which I have come to believe are part of the spiritual energy that surrounds every death. This book is for those who want to become part of Nancy Cobb's tribe, responding in their own minds and hearts to the stories she tells.
Don Smith is a hospice volunteer in Florida.