Book Review-On Living by Kerry Egan

On Living Kerry Egan
If you’ve ever wondered what the work of a hospice chaplain looks like, read this book. In fact, I almost didn’t read this book because I feared it would feel too much like a day of work. While her stories resonated with me, I didn’t feel like I was working. I felt like I met someone who understands what I do and why I do it. I’m so glad I read this book.
In my time with hospice, I’ve heard stories from people in their 20s, and those who have passed the century mark and every age in between. I’ve met people who have never lived far from where they’ll die and people who arrived here shortly before their deaths. I’ve met people who have spent their whole lives worrying about money and people who have never worried about money. I’ve congratulated couples who have been married 40, 50, 60, even 70 years, and I’ve sat with people who saw the hospice team as their family because they had no one else. I tell you this because what is written in these pages is not unique. All hospice chaplains hear stories. As one of my favorite social workers says often, “We love to hear your stories.” And that is what I do, I listen to stories and help those entrusted to my care make meaning for themselves.
This wonderful book gives you an insiders view into life as a hospice chaplain. You’ll read about joy and heartbreak. You’ll see that it isn’t easy to be present as another’s life nears the end, and you’ll see that it is so worth it. I highly recommend this book to you!
It was difficult to pick only one quote to share with you because this book is filled with so many beautiful words. I’ll leave you with the words used to end the book.
“If life were like a novel, and I could tie things up nicely with a bow, I would claim it was Gloria [the patient we meet on page 1] who gave me my parting advice. But it wasn’t. It was a little old Jewish lady who gave me a blessing every time we met. She’d fled Poland with her parents and brother in the 1930s arrived in the United States ten years later alone. A woman whose story I haven’t told here, and will instead keep bundled in my heart with hundreds of other stories. I’ll leave you with it, as she left it with me: “Promise yourself,” she said that last time we met, “promise that you’ll have a great life, no matter what happens'” (206).

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