1. Nabozny, Geraldine M. BS, RN, CHPN

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You Only Die Once


Integrity Publishers, a division of Integrity Media, Inc., 5250 Virginia Way, Suite 110, Brentwood, TN 37027, Tele: 615.370.3230, Fax: 615.370.3226, E-mail: [email protected] Web site: http://www.integritypublishers.comPrice: $12.95 (soft cover)


You Only Die Once is a book about preparing for death and everything you need to know about getting ready for the inevitable. The book is almost cookbook-like in content, as it describes what to do and what not to do when facing death. This time may be sooner for some, but it's in the future for all of us. This book is full of suggestions about how to prepare.


The purpose of the book is to recognize the importance of preparing for end-of-life care and to motivate readers to prepare, and give hope to survivors and spawn a sense of excitement about living life to its fullest, now. The author, Marge Jenkins, who has a master's degree and works as a psychotherapist, clearly points out the importance of taking steps to plan for your death even when death is not an obvious or impending threat.


The author's experience in counseling patients, their families, and friends reminds us that much chaos, fear, and anxiety occurs when death happens, especially when little or no preparation has been done. This easy-to-read book is packed with ideas, and can be used as an ongoing resource from chapter to chapter in helping one prepare for the end of life.


The first 6 of the book's 18 chapters discuss doing it right because dying only happens once, planning as a wonderful gift for survivors, enjoying life and doing what you want before it's too late, documents and other important papers needed to protect ourselves and families, and what to do with those sentimental and cherished possessions.


The book begins by imagining that if we could look ahead and then look back at our death, we would probably do it differently. So, the author says, make a commitment to make your death easier for your loved ones. Jenkins suggests creating files: one for your advance directives; one called your "Going Away" file for important documents; another one, the "Instant Action" file, for what your survivors should do immediately after your death (people to call, names and numbers of the doctor, funeral home, minister, burial plan), and other details needed at this time. According to the author, this planning can be extremely helpful for your family and friends. It helps those involved in your life make correct decisions about your wishes. Jenkins also suggests making "To Do" lists to help you organize the planning for your death. The book suggests putting in writing, signing, and dating notes about those cherished items you want to give away and for those you want to receive them.


Chapters 7 through 12 deal with specific plans such as writing your obituary, selecting your funeral home, deciding on what to do with your remains, your "going-away party," what type of service (or not), where to hold the gathering, how to do the good-bye process, and anticipating your final days. Chapter 12 explores important information about where you want to be at the end of your life and who will be caring for you during those final days. The book suggests making your wishes known by sharing your values and concerns with your family or friends. Concerns about how you die, being kept free from pain, and having a dignified death are topics to discuss with loved ones. One suggestion is to label this information "Comforting Acts," and to put it in your Going Away file.


Chapters 13 through 17 discuss conversations people worry about, such as what do you say and what do you do when someone dies. What exactly should survivors do at the time of death? Jenkins warns that some people take advantage of grieving survivors by gathering information from death notices published in the local paper, so security is important. Remember, judgment and common sense may be impaired at a time like this.


In Chapter 15, "Hope for the Survivors," the author discusses the stages of grief seen in survivors. I view this chapter as the strength of the book. Jenkins shares practical and compassionate suggestions on how to help survivors get through these stages. The first stage of grief is described as the "kick-in-the-belly" stage, as if the air has been knocked out of you. The shock, numbness, and sense of disbelief we feel when a death occurs is described; this stage is especially intense if the death was unexpected, such as an accident or a result of violence. The second stage is described as "running for cover"-keeping excessively busy, staying in bed, or refusing to leave the house are common behaviors seen in some survivors. Unfortunately, some people get stuck in this stage and begin running in the wrong direction, sometimes in destructive ways. Anger is the third stage, titled "kicking back and getting even," and references the senseless deaths that have occurred in school shootings in the recent past and shares how some people reacted to this violence through their grief. Again, Jenkins offers ways to help both children and adults through these very difficult times. The fourth stage is titled "if only," and discusses regrets and blame. The author's counseling background is apparent and useful in this section as she offers sensible advice. The fifth stage is titled "healing and boomerangs." Jenkins says the process of accepting the death is continual and irregular, and this stage cannot be rushed. The author cites examples of grieving people and offers comforting words. Finally, stage six is titled "reaching for normalcy." The author discusses particulars, such as, with "old normalcy" gone, a "new normalcy" provides a return to a healthy, productive, and joyful life after the death.


The final two chapters deal with living "bodaciously" with grace, gusto, and spiritually, when it really counts. I had to do some research on the word "bodacious," because I was not familiar with it and the author uses the word several times throughout the book. My Webster's New World College Dictionary (2nd ed) did not have the slang term listed, nor did my computer software dictionary. Eventually, I found that it means to live blatantly, remarkably, audaciously, or impressively. As a result, Jenkins encourages people to do something they have always wanted try, to look for new, positive experiences, to make changes that could create a healthier lifestyle, and to not be afraid to seek out life to its fullest.


The author's Christian faith is quite evident as you read this book. For those people who are of the same Christian background this can be comforting; however, the Christian faith is not always a source of help for those who do not believe in God or an afterlife. The strong message of Christian faith throughout the book was almost offensive to me and is a reason I would only cautiously recommend this book. The Christian faith message is either a weakness or strength of the book, depending on the reader's background. Additionally, and unfortunately, the author does not recognize other non-Christian or non-religious sources of support very well.


I do believe the book is successful in helping to motivate people to recognize the importance of end-of-life decisions. Readers may be inspired to prepare for a personal end-of-life plan, including giving hope to survivors by equipping them with knowledge about what to do when death occurs, giving our loved ones the tools they need to go on without us, and creating a sense of excitement about living life to its fullest.