Every night as we lay down to sleep we practice a form of death, according to Richard Neuhaus in As I Lay Dying
. The rhythm of life and death is indeed as natural as the rhythm of waking and sleeping. But few of us know it as literally as does Neuhaus, who found himself drifting in and out of consciousness after a tumor ruptured his intestines and the subsequent botched surgery caused internal hemorrhaging. One night he was visited by two beings, which he calls angels, who assured him that "Everything is ready now." Dramatic as all this sounds, As I Lay Dying
is not so much Neuhaus's near-death-experience tale as it is a Christian discussion of death from the vantage point of a Catholic priest who heard death knocking at his door.
This is not a feel-good book about the white light and smiling family members at the end of the tunnel. Relying on Scripture, Catholic doctrine, and the words of poets and famous writers, Neuhaus ponders questions such as: Can the soul live on, separate from the body? Is it possible to have death with dignity? How is it that we can be propelled into a tailspin of grief over one death, but be indifferent to the ethnic slaughter of millions in central Africa? Is there really life after death? Christians who are close to death, whether it be their own or that of a loved one, may find this a useful companion, if only for Neuhaus's willingness to shed light on our darkest fears while being brave enough to not know all the answers. --Gail Hudson
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From Publishers Weekly
"I almost died." With those three words that form the theme of his latest work, Neuhaus, a Catholic priest and former Lutheran pastor, recalls his brush with death and his thoughts as he was passing through it. Readers in search of sure answers and sweet comfort about the fate that awaits every human being may not be interested in this series of reflections. But those willing to join Neuhaus in pondering the complexities of mortality and the Christian promise of eternal life will emerge all the richer from his sojourn into mystery. Seven years ago, Neuhaus nearly died when a tumor ruptured in his intestines, wreaking havoc on his body and plunging him to the brink of death. As he lay dying in an intensive-care unit, he became keenly aware of his condition, particularly the possibility of his soul separating from his body, and of the reactions of those closest to him. His musings, mercifully free of minutiae from his medical chart, are wholly honest and hardly the stuff of those death-and-dying books that seek to remove all fear from every person's passage out of this world. But they also offer some succor to people of faith. For example, in analyzing his own "near-death experience," in which two seemingly heavenly beings inform him that "everything is ready now," Neuhaus lifts the veil ever so slightly into the life beyond. His report is worth examining by all who have considered their own death or faced that of another.
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