The Troubled Dream of Life: In Search of a Peaceful Death

The Troubled Dream of Life: In Search of a Peaceful Death

The Troubled Dream of Life: In Search of a Peaceful Death

The Troubled Dream of Life: In Search of a Peaceful Death

Synopsis

Drawing on his own experience, and on literature, philosophy, and medicine, Daniel Callahan offers great insight into how to deal with the rewards of modern medicine without upsetting our perception of death. He examines how we view death and the care of the critically ill or dying, and he suggests ways of understanding death that can lead to a peaceful acceptance. Callahan's thoughtful perspective notably enhances the legal and moral discussions about end-of-life issues.

Originally published in 1993 by Simon and Schuster.

Excerpt

Like any other adult with some accumulated years behind me, I have known many people who have died and are no longer part of my life. A few of those deaths are more vivid in my memory than others—in great part, 1 suspect, because they came to symbolize some of the many possible ways of dying. My grandmother's death in her mid-eighties, when I was about ten, remains in my imagination as a perfect kind of old-fashioned ending. She died at home in her sleep, of causes never divulged to me other than “old age,” and was laid out in the living room, where neighbors, friends, and family came to pay what were called their “last respects.” I do not recall any weeping or great sorrow. She had lived a long life, and her death seemed to be taken for granted. The visitors chatted and gossiped, as if it were just another social gathering of the kind she had presided over for years.

Many years later, planning a surprise visit to a sick friend, I came to his home only to discover that it was filled with people. There, in a sitting position in his bedroom, surrounded by animated friends, was his body. He had died less than an hour earlier of cancer, a death long expected. There was no weeping that time either, though he was a much-beloved person. His newly widowed wife, sensing my feeling of awkwardness, went out of her way to put me at ease: “I'm so glad you could be here, Dan. Wouldn't you like something to eat?”

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