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On Living

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  2,518 ratings  ·  431 reviews
As a hospice chaplain, Kerry Egan didn’t offer sermons or prayers, unless they were requested; in fact, she found, the dying rarely want to talk about God, at least not overtly. Instead, she discovered she’d been granted an invaluable chance to witness firsthand what she calls the “spiritual work of dying”—the work of finding or making meaning of one’s life, the ...more
Published October 25th 2016 by Penguin Audiobooks
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Average rating 4.27  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,518 ratings  ·  431 reviews

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Dec 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
What a beautiful little book! Part memoir, part inspirational, and part self-help, 'On Living' by Kerry Egan was one of the most uplifting books I've read this year. I suppose it may seem strange to describe a book written by a hospice chaplain as uplifting but ultimately, that's exactly what it was.

Kerry Egan began the book by describing a rough time in her life which ended up leading her to becoming a hospice chaplain. Years earlier when giving birth to her son, she was administered a drug
Susan Kuhn
Nov 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I read this book several weeks ago when on vacation. It has stayed with me, despite the fact that I hadn't even intended to read it. My friend had left it out on the coffee table, and after I read the first few pages, I was hooked.

With a mother's love, Kerry Egan narrates a variety of moving and deeply personal stories her past clients have shared-- mostly about key life events that the individuals wish didn't happen but shaped them nonetheless-- in an unexpected, nonjudgmental manner that
Erica Metcalf
This book is a must read for all.

It's hopeful.
It's heartbreaking.
It's beautiful.
And it's jam-packed with lessons that hit me harder than I was expecting them to.

I would VERY HIGHLY recommend this book.

Favorite passages:
He seemed remarkably calm that his mother was a Grim Reaper in clogs and pants that were always too snug in the waist, holding the power over life and death in the same hands that held his applesauce.

Every one of us will go through things that destroy our inner compass and
Dec 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Abigail Thomas wrote this blurb for On Living--

"When I forget the importance of kindness, when I forget to listen, when I no longer recognize the comfort of a quiet presence, when no words will help, when I lose sight of what is most important, I will want On Living within arm's reach, always. I love this book."

I wish I had written that. Me too. This book is the book of 2016 for me. I expect I will read it again and urge anyone I know (and don't know) to read it too. It's a lifeline.
"It's a beautiful life and then you leave it."

"Promise yourself [ . . . ] that you'll have a great life, no matter what happens."

The dying, writes Kerry Egan, a hospice chaplain, are not different from you or me. They are just doing something before we do. In On Living, Egan shares many stories of these patients. Some of the stories concern burdensome secrets which the dying wish to be finally relieved of. Other stories challenge both the author's and the reader's understanding of what is "real"
Ray Foy
Nov 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
On Living is Kerry Egan’s recounting of stories told to her by hospice patients during her years as a chaplain. I found it readable and engaging in relating the wisdom and healing Ms Egan found from listening to what people with little time left had to say. Their stories are sometimes heart-rending, sometimes tragic, sometimes funny, but never morbid. While it will make the open-minded reader think about confronting death, this book, as the title indicates, is really about confronting life.

Oct 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wow, this book is powerful. The part where one of her patients says that as a society, we shower babies with love and affection but forget that dying people need that amount of love too. Life gets harder as you get older. This book if full of stories that make you stop, think, and reflect. This book was a little blessing and I encourage any human to read it because the reality is, we are ALL dying people.
Dec 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I was drawn to read this book because the author reports on her time spent with dying patients in hospitals and hospices and I am a hospice volunteer. I was very taken with how articulate she is about difficult topics. She doesn't pretend to have answers, yet she points to ways of thinking about life and death and questions that are amazingly helpful. I am going to buy a personal copy as I will want to reread this again and again.
Feb 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
The author is a Chaplin who visits patients in hospitals, nursing homes and hospices--then tells their stories. Darlene's review says it all>> "What a beautiful little book! Part memoir, part inspirational, and part self-help..."
Jul 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a lovely book, written by a hospital chaplain who works primarily with hospice and other terminally ill patients. You might expect it to be depressing or sad but it was aptly named "Living", not "Dying". The author is the kind of nonjudgmental person you would want next to you if you were on your way out. Actually, she's the kind of person you would want next to you at a cocktail party too. She sees her job as providing a sympathetic ear and abiding by whatever quirks and eccentricities ...more
Travel Writing
I stumbled on this book in the one bookstore in Dubai. It caught my eye, because there was only one title on the shelf and it addressed death, which is a dodgy thing here in the UAE. There are no hospices, death is something generally dealt with 'within the home' and if they address it at all within the culture, they couch it in palliative care and never mention the dying end of things, just the services end of things.

I was a volunteer at Pathways Hospice in Colorado. Have been with two friends
Jan 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“Kindness is not the same as niceness or putting our heads in the sand, or avoiding conflict. It is acknowledging that no life is as it seems on the surface. It’s is the understanding that we never know all the layers in a life and it is choosing to speak and act from that difficult gray place in all of us.”

What a powerful powerful read.
D.L. Mayfield
Nov 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I read this in two days, and sobbed quite a bit. Short, intense, beautiful, and complicated--and all about death (which means it was all about living).
Carol Catinari
Aug 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
A hospice chaplain writes the stories of those she has tended. Many life lessons within, and applied to her own personal situation. My upshot...just do it! and do it now!!
Nov 20, 2017 rated it liked it
This book is a compilation of stories and lessons learned by a hospice chaplain. She explains her role. She is there, she’s present, she listens. Most of the people she visited and listened to would talk about their families and love. Egan also shares how her time and experience with the patients helped to heal her. This book was not my favorite, but I love the premise. I believe there is much we can learn from those around us, every single person! And this book reminded me again of the ...more
Nov 07, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
I first heard about this book through an interview with the author on NPR, and the book felt very much like the interview, very conversational in style. The book weaves three threads together: the author's own suffering when her son was born, her life and work as a hospice chaplain, and how people perceive what she does in that work. She is a good storyteller, and the book includes the types stories that dying people have told her, and how she has learned to be present to them and their families ...more
Feb 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed this book tremedously. I love how she was able to share real stories of people that she had encountered during her hospice chaplain times. This book is important to teach how people are still living even if they are going through hospice and still have so much to offer. I especially liked the lady who said she wanted compassion because of her condition, not pity.
There is so much to love about this book, namely the way it is drenched in compassion. The only thing is: I wanted more, that's how much I liked it! I wanted more stories, more examination of each story, and more stories about her own experience with her illness so as to better understand what she experienced. So, Kerry, write a follow-up, please!
Molly Peterson
Oct 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A beautifully written book with messages for everyone. I've never read anything quite like it. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it to everyone. The "Death and Grieving" subject title the booksellers are giving it is misleading. The title says it best: this is a book on living.
Oct 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: christianity
Given that the book’s primary contents are the hard-earned wisdom of a hospice chaplain, one might complain that the title ("On Living") is false advertising. To add more evidence to the charge, the book is especially focused on the sometimes dark paths to the last moments of Egan’s memorable patients while also including some wistful theorizing on mortality more generally.

But in my judgment the book really is about living and how to do it wisely. Some of the book’s most poignant moments arise
Marilyn McEntyre
Jun 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spirituality
Hospice work is full of surprises. As a hospice volunteer, grateful for the surprises it's dropped into my life, I was eager to read these stories by a hospice chaplain whose own medical crisis has informed her imagination and clearly deepened her compassion for patients in all stages of the final journey. I met the author briefly at the Calvin Festival of Faith and Writing where a long line of appreciative readers waited at her book-signing table. She's a delight--fully present, open-hearted, ...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Apr 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
I've finished two great books this week, and that is enough for me to say it's been a good reading week. Both books have a lot of similarities. Both On Living by Kerry Egan and All These Wonders: True Stories About Facing the Unknown are nonfiction. Both books are about times in one's life when a person faces an enormous, potentially life-changing situation and about how those situations play out. All These Wonders is stories told at various locations around the world at The Moth on the ...more
Tim Huang
Dec 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is one of those books that takes a few hours to read but a few days (at least) to fully digest. At times, the book succeeds at rejuvenating those dull, eye-rolling cliches by telling and reflecting on patient's stories near the end of their lives. The author is incredibly generous and tender yet sincere to her patients and their families. And she's honest to the reader as well, acknowledging her own skepticism when patients tell her their bizarre stories. Still, the book reminds us that ...more
Jul 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 5star
Kerry Egan is a hospice chaplain, but this book is not the story of death but rather how to live a fruitful life. Kerry introduces us to some of her patients at the end of their lives..some speak of regret, but all patients talk of love and all patients demonstrate courage. What I have gleaned from this little book is that life isn't always black or white, sometimes you gave to accept the "gray"...don't delay becoming the person you want to be...sometimes it is all about change and accepting ...more
Feb 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Such beautiful, disturbing and provocative stories. I appreciate the mix of her own hurting experiences with the stories of her patients. Her description of what she does with the dying and what they want to talk about was really insightful. It comes down to family and being loved. I was touched by the chapters on regrets (you should have them) and on living in the grey (as opposed to black and white).
Karen Heuler
Jul 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It's not the dying that breaks your heart, it's the living. This is a totally nonjudgemental view of what people need to talk about--the mistakes they made, the fears they have, the longings still eating at them. Kerry Egan won't act for them if there's something they want done, but she will listen and encourage them to take the step they really want to take. Unlike the times we live in, there's no adamant religiosity. I highly recommend this book
Loriann Summers
Jul 26, 2018 rated it liked it
This book was a selection of my book club because the author lives in my town. She is coming to the meeting so I had to read it. I would never have chosen this book on my own. I expected the book to be preachy and sad. It was actually kind and not terribly sad. I listened to the audiobook - the narrator was the author - so her reading was a bit peppy for the topic making it less sad. I enjoyed the stories and her kindness inspired me.
Stephen Henninger
Nov 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This was a common read for one of the living learning communities in my department. I didn't necessarily know what to expect, but very much enjoyed Egan's collection of stories On Living. Egan weaves very personal stories from her work as a hospice worker with her own tale of hardship. It is a book that reminds us, or at least me, to slow down, be present, and nurture meaningful relationships.
Nov 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is a little different than I expected as it also tells a lot about the job of Hospice Chaplain. It contains a lot of wisdom and much to ponder. I liked it so much that I want to buy it to keep to read and then think. Some of the more mystic happenings can be believed or not, but the patient was helped by those phenomena. They gave me respect for other beliefs.
M.J. Prest
Jun 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One of the most intensely spiritual reading experiences I've ever had -- the book equivalent of looking into the sun. It took me forever to finish not because it is very long, but because I would read four pages and want to run with what it unleashed in me for a few days. Many chapters would make excellent meditations (particularly the one on hating your body). An easy 5 stars.
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“Every one of us will go through things that destroy our inner compass and pull meaning out from under us. Everyone who does not die young will go through some sort of spiritual crisis, where we have lost our sense of what is right and wrong, possible and impossible, real and not real. Never underestimate how frightening, angering, confusing, devastating it is to be in that place. Making meaning of what is meaningless is hard work. Soul-searching is painful. This process of making or finding meaning at the end of life is what the chaplain facilitates.” 7 likes
“When someone tells you the story of their suffering, they are probably still suffering in some way. No one else gets to decide what that suffering means, or if it has any meaning at all. And we sure as hell don't get to tell someone that God never gives anybody more than they can handle or that God has a plan. We do not get to cut off someone's suffering at the pass by telling them it has some greater purpose.” 6 likes
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