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Dying: Finding Comfort and Guidance in a Story of a Peaceful Passing was chosen as a finalist for the National Best Books two years in a row in the category Health: Death and Dying Award, 2008, 2009 sponsored by USA Book News.
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Have you ever experienced synchronicity? Something unexpected and “right” that happens at the right time and place. An example is the recent story of the man who bought a winning lotto ticket worth millions just before his death when he needed to provide for his wife and children. Some call it luck, others see a hint of the divine.
Before I became a psychotherapist, I spent ten years as a university professor where promotion depended a lot on producing articles for publication – the “publish or perish” ethic. To me, writing was a chore, and I was not remotely interested in writing a book.
But here I am writing. So fate, some might say, decided otherwise. I prefer to attribute this to the magic of synchronicity.
I attended a party where I reconnected with Joe Lewandowski, a writer and editor. We talked about my end-of-life coaching experience with Kris, my long-time client, and he recognized that relating her story would help many other people. We collaborated on an article that he wrote for the Denver Post. Later, I realized that my work with him had planted the seed in my mind to write a book about the experience.
Soon after Kris’s death, I attended the International Coach Federation Convention. I had no idea why I wandered into Sam Horn’s talk on “How to Write a Book.” But that presentation added some fertilizer to the write-a-book seed. When I walked out of the session, I felt that I would write a book and I knew I would work with Sam.
About 18 months later, I was scheduled to go on a week’s vacation in Scottsdale, AZ with a friend. At the last minute she cancelled. So I decided to take my laptop computer and spent the entire week completing my book. It wouldn’t have occurred to me to plan a week away to work on my book. Instead of being annoyed that my friend backed-out at the last minute, I allowed synchronicity to take hold: I used that uninterrupted time to complete my book. I realized that a series of events brought me to this place that I could never have planned. Everything worked out perfectly.
Before Kris died, I asked her to sign a release-of-information form in case I ever wanted to share information about our work together. At that time I had no conscious thoughts about writing a book. She told me right then that she would be thrilled if her life experiences could be useful to others. No doubt, a synchronous connection.
Several months after finishing my book, Christiane Northrup, M.D., was scheduled to speak in my hometown. I bought a ticket and arrived early hoping to give her my book for a possible endorsement. As I waited for the doors to open, a former client saw me and told me that she was the organizer for the event. When she heard about my book, she introduced me to Dr. Northrup. After we chatted for a few minutes, Dr. Northrup said, “this is such an important topic.” Later she lent the endorsement that now graces the cover of my book. I was thrilled to have this best-selling author and internationally renowned expert — who is also a frequent guest on "Oprah" — endorse my book. I arrived early with a book in hand — and magic unfolded!
I began to trust in these "coincidences." I plotted my next miracle.
I've long admired Bernie Siegel, M.D., best-selling author of Love, Medicine and Miracles. I sent him a copy of my book, asked him to read it and send me his comments. Within a week he wrote back with a glowing endorsement. You can now read Bernie Siegel’s foreword on my website and in my book.
In mid-2007 I attended the National Speakers Association meeting in Denver where Sam Horn was leading a Book Boot Camp. After I checked out of the hotel I got in the car to drive home. But before I started the car, a sweet voice in my head told me to go back inside and go to the restroom in the lobby. The voice gave an indication that I would see Sam there. I could not ignore the voice, so I grabbed my briefcase, books and camera and went back inside. When I walked into the restroom, there was Sam greeting me with a grin and an invitation: She asked me to give an impromptu talk to her Book Boot Camp. I proudly told these aspiring authors to follow their inspiration.
Recently my book became an award-winning finalist in the "Health: Death and Dying" category of the National Best Books 2008 Awards, sponsored by USA Book News. A year prior to receiving the award, I told my book cover designer, “Leave room on the cover for an award.” I said that long before I knew anything about book contests. Sam told me that she had never before heard of any book author making room for an award recognition before the fact.
As I placed myself in the grand wheel of events surrounding my book, I knew nothing was guaranteed. But I did know this: I trusted in my idea, I felt good about presenting Kris's end-of-life story, and I believed that the book would help others. I was in synch with this adventure.
By embracing this personal synchronicity and expressing it, I knew that others would value this book. I did not see obstacles, I saw only possibilities; and in being open to possibilities, I found synchronicity.
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As a psychotherapist I have helped thousands of people to clarify their values and to live more meaningful lives. My life has consistently been defined by helping others.
In 2004 a long-term client was diagnosed with terminal cancer when she was only 56. She asked me to help her die “a good death.” Without any hesitation I agreed. Although I was well into my fifth decade of life when Kris died, I’d never had any experience with the death and dying process. I never dreamed that I would become so deeply involved and that this experience would affect me so profoundly.
While much of my time during Kris’s final eleven months was spent helping her and her partner, what I learned was immeasurable. The process turned into one of the most time-consuming, exhausting and meaningful experiences of my life.
I encountered moments every day when I learned something about the process of dying – and the process of living. And in turn, I learned something new about myself. I believe I participated in a truly profound experience and felt privileged to be part of the process.
Preparing for your own death or the death of a loved one is undoubtedly difficult, but it is also one of the most important and loving acts you can ever perform. Looking back on my time with Kris, I do not regret any of it.
As I talked with friends about my experience, I realized that everyone needs this information. Death is inevitable and we can all benefit from guidance for the final journey.
I wrote this book to be of service. I want people to know that whether they are in the role of patient or caregiver, they can find comfort, meaning and grace in a peaceful passing. Please share this information with others.
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Paperback: 216 pages
Publisher: Odyssey Ink (2008)
Dimensions: 8.3” x 5.3” x 0.7”
Shipping Weight: 8.8 oz
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“I really enjoyed reading this story. I gained a lot of insight from it. It helped me to look at my own interactions with patients and families and gave me ideas about how I could help them more.”
—GINA CHAFFER, R.N., M.S.N., Hospice nurse
“Ever wish you had a coach to guide and encourage you when dealing with terminal illness? This touching recollection of Kris during her final months with cancer, narrated by those who cherished her, inspires through her positive coping skills and informs with practical advice not readily found elsewhere.”
—CAROL NEWLIN, M.D., Ph.D., psychiatrist
“This is a book for everyone. Whether you or someone you know is currently, or was recently in the dying process this book is a useful guide to a peaceful experience. This is the warmest and most honest account of the dying process I have read. It is a guide for working with terminally ill patients as well as a story of caring and growth.”
—MICHAEL JOHNSTON, L.Ac., licensed acupuncturist
“I found this to be an excellent way of gently communicating the importance of preparation for both dying and helping someone die. The simple examples and clear insights in this book can be helpful to people of any age, belief, education, or diagnosis.”
—PEGGY WHITT, R.N., registered nurse
“I want to die in peace. I want to die without regret. I could understand everything you wrote. People in China would be interested in this book.”
—CHUN XIAO YAN, aesthetician
“Thank you Dr. Underwood for taking me on an emotional journey through a dignified dying process. This is a thorough retrospect about opportunities that support people while they help a loved one die in dignity. You show how peace and light can be shared by those on their last journey with the ones left behind. You are a gifted writer, thanks for sharing.”
—ORLY S. PENNY, M.Ed., Diversity Committee, Poudre Valley Hospital System
“This simple, eloquent, personal and professional memoir is a useful guide for those in the dying process and those helping them. For estate planning attorneys, familiarity with this book will help them counsel clients as they make choices for advance directives, living wills, durable powers and instruction for disposition of last remains.”
—MARY M. DAVIS, J.D., attorney
“I lost my dad over 40 years ago when I was 8 years old. I wish someone had given me this information back then. This book would help anyone who has already lost someone or is about to lose someone, including the very young. I could read this book again tomorrow. It helped me understand all the deaths I’ve endured. It makes me more at peace about dying.”
—JAN FELKER, caregiver
“This is great. I found it easy to read, manageable and an absolute necessity for everyone. I heard a lot of humility in the ‘we learned . . .’ approach which is easy to accept rather than an ‘I know it all now’ approach. Good job!”
—SABRÉ PAGE, yoga teacher
“This book is a perfect way to introduce people to the ‘art of dying.’ I want to give this book to everyone who comes to the funeral home. Nobody wants to talk about death. People need to allow time to plan a truly memorable service. Let’s bring back some tradition and also add a new twist to the funeral process.”
—ELLEN JONES, funeral planner
See more reviews on www.Amazon.com
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