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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 (68 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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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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Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As a volunteer with a hospice association, I find this book helpful and inspirational.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Final Gifts - a timely reading Feb. 24 2014
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A wonderful book to help accompany, understand and support the dying. It eased my mind about some decisions that needed to be made.
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5.0 out of 5 stars an amazing gift Feb. 21 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Very helpful and very good communication
This was very needed. And came into our .life at the perfect time
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great book Jan. 10 2014
By Ozzy
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Everyone should read this book!
Gives you the strength you need to go through really tough times in your life.
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5.0 out of 5 stars must have... Aug. 6 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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. I have gifted several copies to hospices, so that it is available to people when they need it. That final chapter journey, from the departure lounge, can be very confusing,
frustrating, and frightening. The stories that these gals impart, help to pave the way to a more
peaceful passing for all concerned. I think it should be mandatory reading, anytime before, one might
need it. Very reassuring!!! Thankyou Maggie Callanan
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4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty good Jan. 31 2013
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. A social worker in the hospital suggested this book as a way to better prepare ourselves for the near term as it does not look that good.
Considering when the book was written its not too heavy on the god(s) stuff. Where it got a bit too mystical, "talking to people on the other side" etc, I read it more as metaphorical than literal and it was fine. On the whole, there was a lot which I liked about the book, which was mostly a collection of people's stories as seen and *interpreted* through the eyes of a hospice nurse. Her observations on how we have isolated death from "normal" life by medicalizing it and hiding it away ultimately is a disservice to us. The stories are wide and varied enough, that I think people from many different philosophical points of view can take away useful knowledge on how to prepare for death as well as help care for those who are dying.... After all, we all will die. How do you make the best of it based on who you are and what you believe ? This book can help with that....
I didnt give it 5/5 because, well, it didnt meet all my needs. But still, a very worth while starting point.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Should be "Required Reading for All!" Sept. 7 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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. If you know of someone who is close to death, this book will answer all the questions you have been afraid to ask. Truly, a "Final Gift."
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