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Final Gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs, and Communications of the Dying [Paperback]

Maggie Callanan , Patricia Kelley
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Feb. 3 1997
Five years after its first publication, with more than 150,000 copies in print, Final Gifts has become a classic. In this moving and compassionate book, hospice nurses Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelley share their intimate experiences with patients at the end of life, drawn from more than twenty years experience tending the terminally ill.

Through their stories we come to appreciate the near-miraculous ways in which the dying communicate their needs, reveal their feelings, and even choreograph their own final moments; we also discover the gifts—of wisdom, faith, and love—that the dying leave for the living to share.

Filled with practical advice on responding to the requests of the dying and helping them prepare emotionally and spiritually for death, Final Gifts shows how we can help the dying person live fully to the very end.

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From Kirkus Reviews

Impressive insights into the experience of dying, offered by two hospice nurses with a gift for listening. The ``final gifts'' of the title are the comfort and enlightenment offered by the dying to those attending them, and in return, the peace and reassurance offered to the dying by those who hear their needs. Callanan and Kelley describe a phenomenon they term ``Nearing Death Awareness''--which resembles somewhat the near-death experience sometimes reported by individuals revived after being clinically dead. Nearing Death Awareness, however, develops slowly, and the dying person seemingly drifts for a time between two worlds. Attempts by the dying to communicate about this awareness, often expressed in symbolic language or gestures, may be misunderstood by those around them, who dismiss the expressions as mere ``confusion.'' According to the authors, dying messages fall into two categories: descriptions of what they are experiencing (such as the places they see, the presence of others no longer alive, or their knowledge of when death will occur) and requests for what the dying need for a peaceful death (a reconciliation, for instance, or the removal of some barrier to departure). To illustrate, Callanan and Kelley include numerous examples of Nearing Death Awareness from their years of caring for the dying. And they offer practical advice not only to involved family members but also to professional caregivers on how to recognize, understand, and respond to a dying person's messages. No lugubriousness or false cheerfulness here, but acute observations and astute advice on a difficult topic. -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


“A treasure–clear, authentic, responsible, and profoundly moving.” —Sandol Stoddard, author of The Hospice Movement

“Beautifully written, illuminating and reassuring…Final Gifts is truly a gift to us all.” —Judy Tatelbaum, author of The Courage to Grieve

“These richly told stories enable us to respond to the dying in new and authentic ways.” —Ira R. Byock, M.D., author of Dying Well: The Prospect for Growth at the End of Life

“Impressive insights into the experience of dying, offered by two hospice nurses with a gift for listening…They offer practical advice not only to involved family members but also to professional caregivers on how to recognize, understand, and respond to a dying person’s messages.” —Kirkus Reviews

“A hopeful, helpful work…provides a gentle way to think about the unthinkable.”—Publishers Weekly

“A treasure…‘must’ reading for anyone working with the dying, or living with a dying person or life-threatening illness, or thinking about the process.”—Vital Signs

“Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelley have garnered a wisdom and sensitivity, and cultivated a keen observation that only the dying could teach.”—Sunrise

“Insightful. Final Gifts is a significant contribution. Experienced hospice nurses Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelley shed important light on human experience at the end of life. I highly recommend this helpful book to all who care for the dying.”—Dr. Balfour Mount, Professor of Palliative Medicine, McGill University

“Irrespective of belief system, age or diagnosis of the dying person, Final Gifts conveys the awe and profundity of the moments surrounding death that we all feel.” —Madalon Amenta, R.N., M.D., Public Health Editor of The Hospice Journal

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Customer Reviews

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The last handbook you'll ever need Nov. 14 2004
All of us will have to experience loss at some point--some more than others. And no amount of religion, soul-searching, friends, or estate and trust planning can really prepare us for the event. Having seen over thirteen of my family members die over the years, not to mention friends and co-workers, I can only say that I wish this book had been available for me then. The insights into dying and the reactions of those around the dying provided by the astute author(s), are quite impressive. But the best thing about this well written book is that it doesn't pander; there is no cheerleading or false hope--only the truth, told in a professional and caring manner.
Lately, because of my interest in the subject and how it affects not only those dying, but those around the aged and ill, I've been reading everything I can get my hands on. I've come across two other excellent books on this subject. One is titled "Necessary Losses" and is along the lines of this book. the other was a collection of stories about loss called "The Children's Corner" by Jackson McCrae. Stories about death, be it physical, spiritual, or emotional. Some are acutally quite funny and others are touching. Still others are dark and painful. One story "Crook" deals with Alzheimer's and is moving without being manipulative. All-in-all, two other great books to help you think about dying and the process.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review for Final Gifts May 10 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Final Gifts is a wonderful book, uplifting, and calming. I am suffering from terminal cancer, and it made me feel a lot better about the actual dying process. My friends and family have also been comforted by reading this book. I would highly recommend it to anyone where there is a terminal illness, or simply imminent death.

Diane Weston
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5.0 out of 5 stars End of Life Review Nov. 27 2002
Benjamin Mahdi
November 27, 2002
Book Review: Final Gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs, and Communications of the Dying
By Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelley
This book first caught my attention when I was doing research into how family caregivers deal with loved ones plagued with Alzheimer's disease. Although Alzheimer's is not a terminal illness the enduring journey does lead to the unfortunate passing of a loved one. The authors illustrate the process of death and the reactions very well. They draw to an interesting parallel between birth and dying, and how this can be looked upon simply as a cycle. Yet they go into further detail about the way each individual reacts to the idea of dying.
A main thought that is preached throughout book is that of informing both patient and family about the disease. The coping process becomes so much more difficult when uncertainty is placed into the outcome of the dying patient's future. To prevent this, the authors suggest not keeping the family or patient in the dark about the disease, but educating them to anything that may occur. In turn this relieves much anxiety and fear for the whole family, and allows them to continue through the coping process. An issue that was raised in this book was the notion of a peaceful death. Although this did not cover how a family caregiver is to deal with the situation, it can be easily applied. The primary thought is the acceptance that ones loved one is going to die and also the importance of dying peacefully. This means both at peace with ones mind and also in regards to physical comfort. Through the acceptance of death, the caregiver can be able to offer the support needed to the dying patient and also his family.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Empowering and comforting May 27 2002
By Kellie
Final Gifts is the best and most practical book I've ever read.
What I appreciate most about the book is that it is empowering and comforting to both the loved ones of the dying and the dying themselves. In fact, I own 3 copies of Final Gifts and I loan them out to friends, family and acquaintances when I hear they have a loved one who is dying. To a person, they have returned the book to me and said it dramatically changed their lives and their perspective on how to approach their loved one and his/her death.
The book is about the gifts that the loved one has to pass on to the survivors (and vice versa), even when it may seem the dying person is incoherent or drugged beyond understanding (this is often when he/she needs to communicate most). In a nutshell, Final Gifts encourages caretakers and visitors to pay attention to the communications of the dying, to learn the communication methods of the dying (they often use symbols to communicate--the authors explain how to decipher these), and to acknowledge that the dying need those around him/her to be honest about the situation and encourage openness in their communication.
The book is also very comforting in its description of numerous case studies observed by the two authors. They explain what the dying experience (it's actually very positive) and how to let go.
EVERYONE should read this book. EVERYONE--regardless of educational level (it's a fast and easy read), personal or professional background.
When you don't know how to help someone whose loved one is dying, give them this book. I promise, it will help them and comfort them beyond measure.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars This is an old book but one of the best. It is based on the...
This is an old book but one of the best. It is based on the observations of two hospice nurses. I first bought it when my dad was dying of cancer and it really helped me... Read more
Published 19 days ago by Biz
5.0 out of 5 stars inspirational
Final Gifts brought me peace and understanding that death is not the end of my Mom's journey, but the beginning of her new one.
I will miss you Mom, until we meet again❤️
Published 23 days ago by Andrea 
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Gave them away as a donation to a Palliative care group
Published 3 months ago by merkie
5.0 out of 5 stars As a volunteer with a hospice association, I find ...
As a volunteer with a hospice association, I find this book helpful and inspirational.
Published 3 months ago by Patricia Pavey
5.0 out of 5 stars Final Gifts - a timely reading
A wonderful book to help accompany, understand and support the dying. It eased my mind about some decisions that needed to be made.
Published 8 months ago by sylvianne perry
5.0 out of 5 stars an amazing gift
Very helpful and very good communication
This was very needed. And came into our .life at the perfect time
Published 8 months ago by Maryanne
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
Everyone should read this book!
Gives you the strength you need to go through really tough times in your life.
Published 9 months ago by Ozzy
5.0 out of 5 stars must have...
this book is so beautifully written, from the hearts of women who have been hands on there, with
patients and families at the end of life. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Janice Gale
4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty good
First off, my wife and I come from an atheist perspective. She is in pretty tough with cancer and I am her partner of 25 years trying to help her and cope as best I can. Read more
Published 21 months ago by Mike Tancsa
5.0 out of 5 stars Should be "Required Reading for All!"
This book is written by two Hospice Nurses and is extremely helpful and informative. Sadly, everyone will have to endure the loss of a loved one at some time. Read more
Published on Sept. 7 2012 by zumba 4 fun
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