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Final Gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs, and Communications of the Dying
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Final Gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs, and Communications of the Dying

4.37  ·  Rating details ·  4,030 ratings  ·  514 reviews
Five years after its first publication, with more than 150,000 copies in print, Final Gifts has become a classic. In this moving and compassionate book, hospice nurses Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelley share their intimate experiences with patients at the end of life, drawn from more than twenty years experience tending the terminally ill.

Through their stories we come t
Paperback, 256 pages
Published February 3rd 1997 by Bantam Books (first published January 1st 1992)
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Joyce Porteus I can only answer from my own experience which is similar. I was given this book several months before my mother's passing, but I could not pick it up…moreI can only answer from my own experience which is similar. I was given this book several months before my mother's passing, but I could not pick it up until I was mentally prepared. It was about 3 to 4 months later that I read it and it was as if someone shined a light on me to help me understand what I experienced with my mother. I have recommended this book to many friends going through similar situations. (less)
Irene Allison No, it is a deeply heart and human-centered book that forces no ideologies or religions on the experiences it shares.

The spiritual aspect of the book…more
No, it is a deeply heart and human-centered book that forces no ideologies or religions on the experiences it shares.

The spiritual aspect of the book is that it respects the grace and intimacy of the dying process, while honouring the natural, yet ultimately mysterious and deeply individual process of dying. (less)

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C. Janelle
Mar 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Back when I was a doula, I had this thought that working with women through the birthing process must be similar to working in hospice with people who were dying. I didn't share this thought with many people. In general, I would try not to mention death to pregnant women, and I worried that anyone not involved in doula work might think I was just weird. But to me---next to being born, which for most of us is stored only in our implicit memory and therefore inaccessible with our conscious methods ...more
Nikki ღ Navareus
I've never read anything like this before. This is an amazing book, that would be a fantastic gift to give people who have a family member dying. It's very educational, from the hospice aspect, of what to expect and how to help your loved one through their fears and stress at they approach their end of life. This book also has important information to help the supporting family member reading this book, to help them through their fears and loss of words to say to their dying family member. This ...more
Jul 27, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
This book is for everyone... We all know someone who is dying, has died or is related to someone with cancer or a terminal disease. It is written by a pair of Hospice nurses who documented cases of patients and families of those in the final stages of death.

The 'Final Gifts' of the dying are very often missed or refused by the living for fear of looking greedy or uncaring. I learned that the dying know they are dying and we need to respect their wishes. They may want to give you a precious item
Bill Braun
Sep 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: death-and-dying
I am a volunteer in a program at MetroHealth System in Cleveland, OH, USA called No One Dies Alone. I read this book as part of the orientation and training we receive prior to caring for patients.

The authors, experienced hospice nurses, speak to the many ways that people can be present to the dying (and their loved ones), and in so doing help the dying find peace in their final days and hours. They discuss the many issues that dying people often want to resolve or communicate, and how the dying
Laurie Zagurski
Jan 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I have purchased and given away SO many copies of this book! When my own mom was in Hospice House, the nurses recommended this book to all of us girls (me and my 3 sisters). When people have terminal illnesses they often share experiences and the people they see as they make their journey to the next life.

Unfortunately, many friends and family members will write-off these experiences to "the meds" or "their illness." This book helps you open your eyes and heart to these "FINAL GIFTS" that the d
Carolyn Johnson
May 13, 2007 added it
Recommends it for: Anyone who has a loved one who is terminally ill, or who has an interest in hospice
I was given this book to read several years ago when my father-in-law was dying. I mean, right at the very moments of his dying. I sat in the living room of the house in which he died, and read several parts of the book, and became too overcome with emotion to finish it. And, of course I was not in a place or emotional space to take in the information. I later purchased a copy of this book and read it. Incredible. The last moments of any human life are indeed someone's Final Gifts's to us, and b ...more
Basically, the goal of this book is to teach families and caregivers how to respond to the needs of the dying, so that everybody gets peace and closure. The book tells many stories of individuals and how they coped with the loss of loved ones. However, most of the families were upper middle class. There were numerous mentions of private round the clock nurses, and almost all the patients were well educated, and had supportive families to help them. Additionally, all the deaths were calm, peacefu ...more
Sep 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: death
This book is, quite simply, the most helpful thing I have read this year as I continue to cope with my parents' declining health. It is just uplifting enough to make me fear the entire concept of death less. It is just reality based enough for me to buy into the content. The authors are hospice nurses who have witnessed more death than the average person. Throughout their years working in close proximity with dying patients, Callahan and Kelley began to take notice of certain patterns of behavio ...more
Andrea Uhde Shepherd
Oct 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
I realize...this is weird.

I read a book about dying.

I'd been trying to avoid it - my mom loaned it to me a year ago, after my dad died. I was scared of it. BUT MAN, this book was actually really uplifting. It's amazing the things I saw my dad do in his final weeks - talking about "going home" and grabbing his luggage bag, and talking about seeing St. Peter and his parents, who have died - how this is something many, many dying people do - no matter their age, culture, disease, medications, etc.
Beverly Diehl
One of the most frustrating things about being with a person who's dying is a sense of helplessness combined with ignorance. What is the person feeling, what does he WANT, are some of the things he says delusional or do they have a greater meaning?

This book helps answer many of those questions, and gives clear examples of these things. If you will be spending time with a person who is nearing death, I highly recommend this book. And for all that many people find death depressing, I have to say I
Jul 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
My husband recently passed away from Melanoma. Before he passed, one of my family friends gave me this book explaining it would help me better understand what my husband was experiencing and what he was trying to communicate. As his primary caregiver, this book was a God send (this is not an understatement). When he would exhibit some of the Near Death Awareness types of communication such as picking at the sheets, reaching for no one, talking about needing to leave or go, I would know what ques ...more
Jan 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
My father passed away in 2002 he said some things during the last moments of his life that I didn’t understand. I learned later about what the dying go through and understood what my father was saying at the end of life.
My mother passed away recently, her passing was different from my fathers. My mother died slowly. The verbal and non verbal signs she gave at the end were a bit confusing but I had some experience from watching my father pass. I wanted to understand from the hospice perspective
Nov 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 00-own-a-copy
Since I’m approaching the one year anniversary of my mom’s death, I’m finally feeling ready to read this book, which was recommended by a close friend who also lost her mother. Am I really ready? We shall see ...

Final Gifts was written by experienced hospice nurses in 1992 so it is a bit dated but, in my opinion, the majority of the information remains timeless, extremely relevant, and helpful. The stories shared by these caring nurses were so interesting and focused on Nearing Death Awareness,
May 09, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
If you're looking for a book with pat page-and-a-half stories of people making their peace and then joyfully passing on, this is the book for you. "I hadn't talked to my daughter in 20 years, but those last two weeks we grew closer than we ever had before. Fin."
Any story in this book that presented a modicum of complexity is glossed over or truncated. There is nothing in here that speaks to people who die angry, or without resolving their issues. There's nothing in here that deals with the com
Sep 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
What an amazing book! I was speechless and had to stop to intellectually and emotionally process the material presented several times during the book. This book is a compassionate and clear rendition of a difficult topic, a serious challenge to the heart and mind, and a must read for anyone with ill or aging family or friends -- at any time during life.

Actually, the book is for we will *ALL" be a "final gift" one day.

Katrine Austin
Feb 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Powerful and poignant

If you struggle with how a loved one passed away or if you simply want more insight into the sometimes strange and beautiful conversations had with the moribund, you will get a lot out of this book. This read was recommended to me by my partner's therapist after he died. Have tissues with you at all times.
Oct 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Accurate and excellent information on understanding those who are in the dying process. It is a process and one that if we are educated on, can turn the experience into a more rewarding & beneficial journey for those who are at end of life and those who care for them.
Apr 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This book really helped me prepare for my dad's death. ...more
May 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was an insightful, sad, educational and heartwarming book as I begin my journey as a hospice volunteer.
Honestly, this could have been a pamphlet.

Published in 1992, this book consists of short paragraphs of information followed by pages of anecdotes based on "real" patients the authors worked with in their careers. Only the last chapter focuses solely on providing practical advice. I guess this was life before the internet.

The other chapters do offer some tips, but they're extremely basic. According to this book, dying people are sometimes sad. They sometimes say confusing things. And, they'll so
Aug 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I found this fascinating. The stories of the ways the dying can communicate are kind of amazing (occasionally to the point that I doubted the authors a bit...but then again, they've had years of experience and have clearly heard it all). I also appreciated the stories about situations when they couldn't satisfactorily interpret the dying person's wishes, and how everyone coped with that. It has me inspired to listen all the more attentively as my mom declines. ...more
Tiffany Walters
Apr 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wish I had been able to read this a month earlier. A good & helpful read for anyone who has someone close to them near their end of days. I stood up to a Dr. and called his BS when he tried to say my dad needed to back off pain meds because he was seeing things that weren't there. Oh believe me, they WERE there. ...more
Jun 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book to read to when you are dealing with a terminal loved one. Included are true stories written about patients that are dying of different illnesses. Helps so much with understanding how they may be feeling and how you can help them through with love and compassion.
Steven Hepp
Oct 04, 2020 rated it liked it
Overall a good message about Nearing Death Awareness, quite repetitive at some points, but all of the stories tug at your heartstrings.
Sep 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was an assignment for the Stephen Ministry I am part of. It gives vignettes of people who are facing death, their innermost needs, and their gifts to their care givers. I would recommend it to anyone, especially one who is caring for someone terminally ill or who fears death. Far from being gloomy, it gives hope to us about the fate we all face eventually. I am very glad I read it.
May 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a really great book written by two hospice nurses. In it, they talk much about the dying process, specifically "Nearing Death Awareness." The book skillfully combines stories from patients past with the experience of nurses who have helped many through the process of dying and/or watching loved ones die. All of this is used to help readers better understand the process as a whole. Important information is shared so that loved ones can be sure to make the most of each day spent with a dyi ...more
Sherry (sethurner)
A few years ago I spent a few week seeing a counselor, partially because of difficulties I had relating to the deaths of several friends and family members within a short time span. She recommended this book, and I finally got around to reading it. How I wish I had read it before! Written by hospice nurses, it explains some of the things dying people say and do, and makes suggestions on how to interpret these actions. All of us lose people we love, and reading this little book could easily help ...more
Feb 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book has given me tremendous insight as my dad nears the end of his life. I feel more compassionate and understanding and have some direction amongst the myriad of emotions at this time.
Dec 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful book with useful insights on communicating with terminally ill loved ones. It stood me in good stead when my mother was diagnosed with brain cancer. One day she said to me, "I'm so afraid for 12". I hadn't the faintest idea what she meant but after having read "Final Gifts" I knew enough not to say "Oh mother stop talking nonsense!" or some similarly dismissive remark. I took her hand and said,"Don't worry Mom, 12 is exactly where she should be, bigger than 11 but smaller than 13." A ...more
Jul 22, 2012 rated it liked it
This book was recommended to me in 2009 to help me to understand my brother's looming dying process from multiple myeloma. I found it too painful at the time and put it aside. When my dear uncle (the last surviving member of my father's immediate family) was told that he had 6 weeks left to live, I was drawn back to the book. The hospice nurses' shared experiences did provide insight, and in an odd way, comfort, as I was preparing for this significant loss. Sadly, I realized that I would have in ...more
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“Pay attention to everything the dying person says. You might want to keep pens and a spiral notebook beside the bed so that anyone can jot down notes about gestures, conversations, or anything out of the ordinary said by the dying person. Talk with one another about these comments and gestures. • Remember that there may be important messages in any communication, however vague or garbled. Not every statement made by a dying person has significance, but heed them all so as not to miss the ones that do. • Watch for key signs: a glassy-eyed look; the appearance of staring through you; distractedness or secretiveness; seemingly inappropriate smiles or gestures, such as pointing, reaching toward someone or something unseen, or waving when no one is there; efforts to pick at the covers or get out of bed for no apparent reason; agitation or distress at your inability to comprehend something the dying person has tried to say. • Respond to anything you don’t understand with gentle inquiries. “Can you tell me what’s happening?” is sometimes a helpful way to initiate this kind of conversation. You might also try saying, “You seem different today. Can you tell me why?” • Pose questions in open-ended, encouraging terms. For example, if a dying person whose mother is long dead says, “My mother’s waiting for me,” turn that comment into a question: “Mother’s waiting for you?” or “I’m so glad she’s close to you. Can you tell me about it?” • Accept and validate what the dying person tells you. If he says, “I see a beautiful place!” say, “That’s wonderful! Can you tell me more about it?” or “I’m so pleased. I can see that it makes you happy,” or “I’m so glad you’re telling me this. I really want to understand what’s happening to you. Can you tell me more?” • Don’t argue or challenge. By saying something like “You couldn’t possibly have seen Mother, she’s been dead for ten years,” you could increase the dying person’s frustration and isolation, and run the risk of putting an end to further attempts at communicating. • Remember that a dying person may employ images from life experiences like work or hobbies. A pilot may talk about getting ready to go for a flight; carry the metaphor forward: “Do you know when it leaves?” or “Is there anyone on the plane you know?” or “Is there anything I can do to help you get ready for takeoff?” • Be honest about having trouble understanding. One way is to say, “I think you’re trying to tell me something important and I’m trying very hard, but I’m just not getting it. I’ll keep on trying. Please don’t give up on me.” • Don’t push. Let the dying control the breadth and depth of the conversation—they may not be able to put their experiences into words; insisting on more talk may frustrate or overwhelm them. • Avoid instilling a sense of failure in the dying person. If the information is garbled or the delivery impossibly vague, show that you appreciate the effort by saying, “I can see that this is hard for you; I appreciate your trying to share it with me,” or “I can see you’re getting tired/angry/frustrated. Would it be easier if we talked about this later?” or “Don’t worry. We’ll keep trying and maybe it will come.” • If you don’t know what to say, don’t say anything. Sometimes the best response is simply to touch the dying person’s hand, or smile and stroke his or her forehead. Touching gives the very important message “I’m with you.” Or you could say, “That’s interesting, let me think about it.” • Remember that sometimes the one dying picks an unlikely confidant. Dying people often try to communicate important information to someone who makes them feel safe—who won’t get upset or be taken aback by such confidences. If you’re an outsider chosen for this role, share the information as gently and completely as possible with the appropriate family members or friends. They may be more familiar with innuendos in a message because they know the person well.” 5 likes
“But even when people are too weak to speak, or have lost consciousness, they can hear; hearing is the last sense to fade.” 3 likes
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