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Love & Death: My Journey through the Valley of the Shadow
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Love & Death: My Journey through the Valley of the Shadow

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  200 Ratings  ·  52 Reviews
On a February day in 2008, Forrest Church sent a letter to the members of his congregation, informing them that he had terminal cancer; his life would now be measured in months, not years. In that remarkable letter, he wrote: "In more than one respect, I feel very lucky." He went on to promise that he would sum up his thoughts on the topics that had been so pervasive in hi ...more
Hardcover, 160 pages
Published September 1st 2008 by Beacon Press (first published 2008)
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Dec 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
Somehow, after finishing Smash Cut, I naturally gravitated to this book which had been on my bedside for years. I really appreciated Church's head on, reflective and calm approach to his own imminent mortality. I'll keep the book on my shelf for later consultation, to tap into his wisdom.

Want what you have.
Do what you can.
Be who you are.

All that survives death is love.
Dec 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
"the one thing that can't be taken away from us, even by death, is the love we give away before we go." pg x

"The opposite of love is not hate. It is fear." pg 15

"He did not spend his life, he invested it in things that would ennoble and outlast him... Cast out thy fear with love. And then - this I know - it will be somehow easier for us to do the things that need to be done, and to let the things that do not matter go." pg 16

Thornton Wilder: 'The highest tribute to the dead is not grief but grat
Nov 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Mom, Grandma
I first heard about this book when I listened to Terri Gross interview Forrest Church on Fresh Air while I was abroad. I was struck by him immediately. I had never heard anyone facing terminal cancer sound so positive, warm, realistic and truly accepting of their disease. I decided to read the book to hear more about how he dealt with his illness, and am so glad that I did.

Forrest Church has spent his career as a minister developing his thoughts on two great themes of life: love and death. In th
Richard Magahiz
May 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: persons dealing with family loss
I've been wanting to read this since the time it was published in 2007 when I used to hear the author's sermons on the radio preaching at All Souls Unitarian in New York. His combination a forceful personality and broad acceptance of everyone appealed to me, so it was with dismay that I heard of his final terminal illness. This is at the center of of this book, read by the author himself in his last months.
In the first part, he discusses how he has come to view love and fear as opposite poles in
Fred Eisenhut
May 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religion
I am using this book as a study book at our Methodist Church in West Dundee Illinois. The response is very positive. Folks are telling me that they like the fact that the book is not cloyingly sanctimonious. Instead it is very practical and filled with love.
If Forrest were still alive I would write to thank him for this gracious study. It is very helpful in trying to understand an event that happens to us all.
Louise Rasmussen
Aug 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book worth re-reading occasionally through life

This little book offers thoughts on life that sooth my mind and soul. Rev. Church offers wonderful ideas on living a meaningful life, facing difficulties, and celebrating our humanity. His mantra, "Want what you have. Do what you can. Be who you are." This will be my mantra as I continue to seek to have a well lived life.
Terri Naughton
Jan 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An important and comforting book. I found it invaluable after the recent loss of my mother.
Jan 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
"Love and death are allies. When a loved one dies, the greater the pain, the greater the love's proof. Such grief is a sacrament. Sacraments bring us together. The measure of our grief testifies to the power of our love." (p10)

"The opposite of love is fear." (p14)

"Just where you think that the grass would surely be green, it may be dying. I am no longer startled by this. What startles me still, though it no longer should, is precisely the opposite. Often, just where you'd think that the grass wo
Nov 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
When I ordered this book I wasn't aware that the author was a Universalist minister, which means he doesn't take the evangelical stand on the Bible being the final word, and quotes other religious scriptures, such as Buddhism. He doesn't believe "God's pulling all the strings."

I disagree with him here, but there were wonderful insights in this book. The author is dealing with a cancer diagnosis that will ultimetly end his life. Thus, the book is about dying and death. "When a loved one dies, the
Mar 20, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: religion
I had no idea who Forrest Church was and am not sure how this book ended up on my reading list. It turns out he was a very well known Unitarian minister and the son of Frank Church, one of my heroes. The book is a collection of sermons and parts of sermons with comments that Forrest wrote after he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer - a bit like The Last Lecture, but better. I tend to dislike platitudes and "meaningful" sayings and quotes, and sermons tend to devolve into just that, but there w ...more
As a Unitarian Universalist minister, Church defined religion as "our human response to the dual reality of being alive and having to die." The goal of life, he tells us "is to live in such a way that our lives will prove worth dying for." This last book in his impressive oeuvre is imbued with ideas and exemplars for achieving that goal. The stories he offers—drawn from his own experiences and from the lives of his friends, family, and parishioners—are both engrossing and enlightening.

"Love &am
Jill Althage
Feb 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
As a Unitarian Universalist, I found this to be a moving account of one who faces the end of life. I loved this quotation:
"We see little of the road ahead or the sky above. And the dust we raise clouds our eyes, leaving only brief interludes to contemplate the stars. All we can do, every now and again, is to stop for a moment and look.
Look. Morning has broken and we are here, you and I, breathing the air, admiring the slant sun as it refracts through these magnificent, pellucid windows and dance
Ann Evans
Oct 14, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was written by my minister, who took his congregation by the hand and led them through his last couple of years (which were only supposed to be a few months) as he died from cancer. He died a few weeks ago, in September, 2009. It was an inspiring journey for all of us, and some of it is recounted in this book. It is put together a bit haphazardly, but has many insights, a good deal of humor (though he was always much funnier in his sermons than in his books. the humor doesn't always come th ...more
Feb 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is the book Forrest Church wrote when he knew his cancer had returned and he only had some months to live. It includes excerpts from some sermons and writings as well as original material related to his life. He is wise, calm and grounded in his own brand of spirituality. I read it for a class on living with death but is worth the read for anyone who questions, wonders and maybe even rails at the inevitability of it all.
Jun 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
Forrest Church has a remarkable and very genuine outlook on his own death and on the mystery of life and death. In this spiritual book, he shares his theological views of death and dying, addressing the "why" of suffering. But, more significantly, he talks about living life fully, loving those around you. His simple (or deceptively simple) motto is: "Want what you have, do what you can, be who you are" and he unpacks this in a way that is incredibly meaningful.
Jun 18, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Forrest Church is a well-known Unitarian Universalist minister who recently lost his battle with cancer. This book is about his thoughts on love and death (what else is there), facing his own death and what is the meaning of life. As a UU, I'm sympathetic to his worldview and enjoyed his writing and philosophy. The problem is that much of the material is from sermons....and no matter how you fix them up....they're sermons.
Feb 18, 2009 rated it liked it
Parts of this book moved me to tears: “The one thing that can’t be taken away from us, even by death, is the love we give away before we go. [...] We do not and we cannot possess the ones we love, for we hold them on loan. This hard truth makes the courage to love also the courage to lose.” It's sparked some important discussions in our house and I'd say has made me hug people a little bit tighter.
Jan 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Church had a wonderful ability to express Unitarian Universalist theology and ethics in a way that draws a people known for diverse languages of reverence back together. This volume, exploring loving boldly and approaching death, is a fine bit of theological work. Recommended for spiritual groups studying Unitarian Universalist theology, making sense of dying, and as a congregational pastoral resource.
Robert Hill
Mar 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I went to a UU religious conference over the weekend. This book is a real "page turner". It contains the reflections of A UU Minister who faces death himself and discusses the nature of God, the nature of religion, his personal theology, and a philosophy of living life to its fullest. He also gives some practical advice about how-to visit a person in the hospital who may be dying. He explores the nature of death in the context of life. It is truly profound.
Jan 23, 2011 added it
A lovely little book. It would be of interest to anyone with death on their mind. As a lifelong UU, its approach was familiar to me, and yet his focus on how death gives life meaning was new. I really like his mantra: want what you have, do what you can, be who you are. Good words for living and dying.
Jun 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
A powerful memoir in which on of the finest Unitarian Universalist ministers meaningfully examines death upon learning that he has esophageal cancer. Church offers a way to look at life and death that I found helpful. From the introduction, "The one thing that can't be taken from us, even by death, is the love we give away before we go."
Jun 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing
If everyone has one good story in them, then perhaps every minister has one really good sermon in them. This short book represents Forrest Church's one best sermon, with excerpts from several actual sermons, prepared as he was dying of cancer. In it, he tries to answer the question: "How should I live my live"?
Nov 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
There is much to admire about this book and Church's philosophy. The pace bogs down a bit during some of the middle sections, and there is some repetition of themes, but these things are easily overlooked. In more than one instance, Love and Death, stuns readers with its power and perception.
Nov 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
Short, simple, and true, this book is one to keep on hand. Church repeatedly advises: Want what you have, Do what you can, and Be who you are.

And he closes on a poem that includes these lovely lines:

Let us set aside our shopping list of grievances,
Resist the nattering of our grubby little egos,
And crack our parched lives open like a seed.
Sep 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ministry
Forrest wrote a good bit of this knowing it was to be his last book. Based on his life themes: Want what you have. Do what you can. Be who you are. He includes musings, portions of other books, portions of sermons. It is probably the wisest approach to death, dying and love that I have ever read.
Jan 31, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed reading this book. I's Forrest Church's struggle with his final year of esophogeal cancer. He included personal reflections and sermons a the All Souls UU church in Manhattan. If a similar struggle is yours, it provides thoughts and actions, theology and philosophy well-worth pondering.
Mars Girl
Oct 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
Despite my slight worry that this guy is way too comfortable with his own impending death, I found this book very inspiring. It's about the life we live before we die, the life we know exists. Beautiful words by a UU minister with a deep, surprising faith in love and a God who loves.
Sue Schlinglof
I ordered this book upon the recommendation of my mother. The writing is eloquent and soothing to the soul. I was glad I ordered it as an e-book so I could look up the words with which I am not familiar as the writer had an extensive vocabulary.
Jan 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
An amazing book about love and death - just what the title says. Forrest Church, son of Senator Frank Church and an Unitarian minister, writes about the development of his theology over a lifetime and how it has informed his own life, illness and expected death. I highly recommend this book.
Mar 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Sharon by: Gene and Jane
Interesting book by a Unitarian minister who was diagnosed with cancer. He died the year after the book was finished. His reflections on living in the face of death are thoughtful and relevant to all of us...who are after all facing our own death sentence. His theology matches mine.
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Rev. Forrest Church served for almost three decades as senior minister and was minister of public theology at All Souls Unitarian Church in New York City. He wrote or edited twenty-five books, including Love & Death.
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