Book Review: On Living by Kerry Egan

Sometimes you come across a book which not only opens your eyes, but opens your heart and soul to a new life experience. This book did just that for me.

kerry egan

The book, written by a hospice chaplain, contains many stories from patients on their deathbeds. Stories which were based not on dying, but on living. Each story concentrated on a particular life lesson we can all learn from; hope, secrets, shame and regret.

A few of my favourite passages were:

“When someone tells you the story of their suffering, they are probably still suffering in some way. No one else gets to decide what that suffering means, or it it has any meaning at all. And we sure as hell don’t get to tell someone that God never gives anybody more than they can handle or that God has a plan. We do not get to cut off someone’s suffering at the pass by telling them it has some greater purpose. Only they get to decide if that’s true. All we can do is sit and listen to them tell their stories, if they want to tell them. And if they don’t we can sit with them in silence.”

This passage can be used in many different contexts, either at work or during daily thoughts. One of my patients told me that I was very peaceful, even though I couldn’t see it myself. But it m

ade me wonder, what did she mean by that? Maybe a peaceful presence, maybe I was patient with her? A respectable presence where the patient will always be at the heart of their own care, with me facilitating their own strength? I still have some searching to do before I answer this one.

When discussing suffering though, it is right to say that no one gets to decide what it is. When dealing with my own suffering, I will develop my own way in how I deal with it. People may advise, but at the end of the day, I need to be able to make sense of whatever it is I am sufferi

ng from and it would be unfair if anyone else commented or judged it.

“There’s always a solution, I see that now,” she said. “I just didn’t understand it at first. It’s not the solution I wanted. But there’s always a solution. It’s just not the one I assumed it would be.”

I love this quote, because it opened my mind to the fact, that if you keep searching, you will find a solution i

n the end. And this, I would think could be built into every aspect of your life. E.g. Financially, emotionally, physically, spiritually. If you take the time to think about your situation, you will always find a solution, even if it is one you may not like, or one you feel you can not reach just yet, there will always be answers. Sometimes a little patience is all it takes.

“We shower so much love on babies and children,”she said. “But as we grow up, it stops. No one showers love on grown-ups. But I think we need more love as we get older, not less. Life gets harder, not easier, but we stop loving each other so much, just when we need love most.”

Such a beautiful passage and one amongst my favourite. During my work time, I find that I do come across grown ups who just need to know they are loved, even in small gestures. Some may show that they are loved too much, but who is to say that this is what they are really feeling? Maybe they are grateful that the love is there but don’t want to show it to the support worker in the room!

Love is shown very different to grown ups, then as children. Circumstances and events happen along the way which may change the way in how we express our love to one another. I feel privileged to be able to be there for my patients, because even a smile can lift their spirits to

new heights which they may not have thought possible. This quote gave me a whole new perspective on the word “love” and embedded that what I do as a health professional, provides love at its centre. “Love thy neighbour”.

Even though there a lot of other passages in this book which I would love to share, I think that these would just be enough to spark an interest to reading it.

This book will definitely not be going to charity! (Sorry charity shop).



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