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Books, movies help those left behind heal, cope with death

By A Contributor

Manhattan Public Library offers a wealth of life-long learning opportunities. Manhattan itself is also replete with life-long learners. I have had the pleasure of becoming friends with many special life-long learners through the library’s outreach services.

As an adult services librarian, I have met wonderful people who have enjoyed reading into their 90s and up until their imminent death.

Adult services librarians deliver books to many of their residences when they find that they can no longer safely drive to the library.

Many have moved into retirement or assisted living facilities where we continue to offer either homebound delivery right to their doors or a rotating collection of large print books that is located in their centers’ libraries.

Recently, I have experienced the passing of three wonderful homebound patrons.  I miss my regular visits with them.

In December I also lost my mother who spent the last two weeks of her life in the gracious care of our local Good Shepherd Hospice House staff. Freshly reminded that we are all touched by this end-of-life subject, I have compiled a short list of books and movies available at Manhattan Public Library which can help us deal with this sensitive issue.

“Final gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs and Communications of the Dying” by Maggie Callanan. This book was available in each room at Manhattan’s Hospice House and was highly recommended.

My sister and I appreciated the way the authors, both hospice nurses with many years of experience,  walked the reader through the experiences of hospice patients and showed how we can help them live full lives till the very end.

“The Last Pilgrimage: My Mother’s Life and Our Journey to Saying Goodbye” by Linda Daly is a very new book first available this May.

This is a story of a high profile mother, daughter relationship as the mother is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and seeks a cure. Living a charmed life, the mother, Nancy, was married to a Warner Brothers’ executive and, after a divorce, married the mayor of Los Angeles.

The author and former teacher, daughter Linda Day, is very involved in philanthropic work.

The two traveled around the country seeking treatment and after a last chance try with a visiting Brazilian healer, headed home in a rented recreational vehicle and faced the end of life together. 

“Making Rounds with Oscar” by David Dosa has been out for a couple years, so if you missed it earlier, try this heartwarming story of a sweet nursing home cat that has the ability to seek out and comfort those who are very close to death. 

Now a novel that stretches a bit to fit this topic but happens to be my newest personal favorite novel “Calling Me Home” by Julie Kibler.

I could not put this tragic love story down without continuing to dwell on the power of love and the tragedy of racial discrimination. In the South during the 1930s, a wealthy white doctor’s daughter, Isabelle, falls in love with the handsome black son of their family maid.

This story combines two time periods, as years later now 89-year-old Isabelle, asks her young black hairdresser, Dorrie, to drive her to a funeral 1000 miles from their homes. The two women share their troubled family stories with Isabelle’s secrets unfolding at the same time Dorrie’s teenage son calls with his own life-changing problems.

“Calling Me Home” kept me mesmerized till the very end. I hope for more by this debut author.

“Tapestry of Fortunes” by Elizabeth Berg is another new fiction book that touches on this same topic of death. This time it is the loss of a best friend that sends a middle-aged motivational speaker seeking monumental changes in her own life. She puts her career aside, sells her home and furnishings and finds a group of women to share a home and a road trip. She spends time as a hospice volunteer and we sit through a training session on how to be a good listener to those who are terminally ill.

This beautifully written novel is a sensitive and hopeful story of women supporting each other through life’s trials.

Entertaining movies with aging issues “How to Live Forever - Results May Vary,” “My Trip to Bountiful,” “On Golden Pond,” “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” “Autumn Spring,” “Cocoon and Lovely,” and “Still.”

In honor of their memory,  I dedicate this column to George Wilcoxon, Jean Hansen and Norma Morrison and all the other wonderful patrons of the Homebound Program at Manhattan Public Library.

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