Will Holsinger is a lawyer working in the San Francisco Bay area. He is a trained hospice volunteer, although he claims that some of the stories in this volume predate his hospice work. He says his association with death began with his own drowning at the age of five, complete with an out-of-body experience.
So what does he mean by ‘A life well lived and a death well met’? He explains, ‘Many of us hope to have lived well. And each of us hopes death will be gentle when it comes. I like to think that living well — in the sense of kindness, service, and generosity of spirit — prepares us for death, both ours and that of our loved ones. I also like to think that I will welcome the time of my passing if I have done my best to reconcile old wounds and conflicts.’
There are 90-odd pieces, a mixture of poetry with a little prose, reflecting on death, dying, and living. I would not presume to judge the quality of his poetry, but there is a warm sincerity to what he writes. The pieces I liked most were from his hospice work: describing being with a stranger, reflecting on the person who is the stranger, just being there, accompanying. ‘The man or woman destined to die tomorrow often finds more peace and joy in today than those of us who have a less definite expiration date.’
If you work in palliative care and like poetry, you will enjoy this book. And even if you’re not into poetry, this is a worthy collection of little stories and thoughts upon which to reflect.
IAHPC Book Reviews
I was amazed at the introduction about Will’s drowning and near-death experience as a boy. As I continued to read each piece, they were all inspirational. From my work as a hospice volunteer and facing my own health challenges, I strongly identified with the emotions and spirituality expressed in the book. So many of the stories and poems were uplifting. The book is more than just about dying, it is about living life to the fullest.
I bought one book for myself and a second for a friend recovering from cancer. She used the book to help write a lay homily for our church. I have recommended the book to many others.
A lovely collection of personal poetry and present-day parables by one who regularly bears witness to death with a sincere heart. A lyrical reminder that like birth, each death is unique. There is no one right way to meet living and dying. Only our own way.
author, The Five Invitations: Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully
As a hospital chaplain and hospice volunteer coordinator for many years, I have worked with patients, as well as their families and the volunteers who join them, during their last days, weeks, and months. One of the truly outstanding features of Will’s writing is that he has been there during those times, too. He has known the feelings, even heartbreak, of people on the verge of these life-changing and ending events, both from his own personal experience and as a hospice volunteer.
In his book of poetry and prose on aging, death and dying, Will has found a glorious, eloquent and elegant voice for capturing the most important questions and feelings, as well as in pointing the way to make peace with all that is happening. He offers ways to live fully in the questions as well as for each reader to find his or her own answers.
I am grateful to have this wonderful book of writings to share with patients and their families, as well as volunteers, especially as they seek to live in authenticity and embrace all they are meant to experience in these final days.
Swami Rani Ferreira
A very timely book. I purchased four for my family. You speak for many. I can’t find the words to describe the way you put yourself in the dying person’s thoughts, those of the family left behind, and the overall way we all hope to live and leave this world. So loving, forgiving, and funny!
This past year has been tough after my Dad’s passing. I had regrets… Did I do enough? Did I listen well? Did I tell him I appreciated all his hard work? Thank him? Your collection I’m sure … I know … has helped me to heal, to forgive myself, to remind me that Dad and I are both human. We all did our best. You spoke for my father and for many many others. I’ll be sending your book to my cousins, as well.
Dying, being with the dying, and moving on after the death of a loved one are all a kind of trauma that we need to live through and heal from. Will Holsinger shares his experience in facing and transcending life’s ultimate trauma in A Life Well Lived, A Death Well Met. He does this with grace and compassion, reaching out to each reader in a unique and special way. There is something in his words for all of us.