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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

4.34  ·  Rating details ·  2,757 Ratings  ·  386 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
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Paperback, 239 pages
Published February 3rd 1997 by Bantam (first published January 1st 1992)
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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)

Community Reviews

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Charity
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
Roxanne
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
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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
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
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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
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Lori
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.
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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
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Leigh
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
Cindi
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.
Michelle
Apr 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This book really helped me prepare for my dad's death.
Ashley
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
Brooke
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
Sue
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.
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
Josie
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
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Minnie
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
Nicole
Jun 04, 2013 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: those who need a quick read to help them sort through nearing death issues
Recommended to Nicole by: Maria and Cathy
Initially, I didn't think I'd be able to make it through this read without going through a box or two of tissue. However, it read rather easily after the first few sections. At times, I wished it delved a little more deeply into certain issues such as poverty, disenfranchisement, and bitterness that many people experience at the end of life. Most of the people who's stories were shared seemed to come from wealthy to upper middle-class, mainstream American backgrounds. The list of further reading ...more
James
Dec 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: People dealing with death and dying
A friend gave me this book when my mother was dying, and it was a tremendous comfort to my family. The authors drew from their hospice experience to explain a lot of what happens when people are in the last stages of terminal illness, and to help their families understand what's happening and how they can best help and support their dying loved ones. I recommend this to any family coping with the dying process.
Rae
Mar 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
Two hospice nurses share experiences and stories dealing with the process of dying. They specifically define and describe "Nearing Death Awareness" and discuss the signs of imminent death. They explain how one can grow from being involved in the process as a caregiver or family member and how to help the individual who is dying to do so with dignity and peace. I found the book helpful and comforting.
Lenorek
Sep 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is the second time I have read this book. It takes you on an amazing journey with those who have experienced Nearing Death Awareness. It has helped me be more aware of my own feelings and those around me during the difficult time prior to death. I hope to use the true stories in this book to stay peaceful and calm - knowing that death will eventually come to us all. Don't want to be maudlin, but this is a very special book about a very difficult subject.
Elizabeth
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 everyone.....as we will *ALL" be a "final gift" one day.

Terri Floccare
Feb 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Wow! This book gave me a lot to think about. I read it just before going to be with my mother as she begins hospice care. I found the information so important I purchased copies for my family members. I like to think my reading this book will benefit my mother, family members, and myself. Thanks to the authors for writing about a topic that is so very difficult to talk about.
Bridget
Sep 21, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
This book really helped me to see death as an important part of life. It's something we all have to do and often have to help others through. Despite the subject matter, this is a very uplifting and satisfying book. The author (if I remember correctly) is a hospice nurse who takes a personal approach, using touching examples from her life and work, to illustrate important concepts.
Lorri
May 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I read this book years ago when my father in law was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I read it again when my grandmother was dying of colon cancer 3 years ago. This book is an awesome book to prepare the family for what is to come and relates many experiences from the author's many years of hospice experience.
Margaretflynn
Jan 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is a beautiful, thoughtful and informative book about Nearing Death Awareness and what we can learn from those who go before us in death. It is a profoundly inspired work written by two nurses who spent decades working in the fields of Hospice and Palliative Care. I will be acquiring my own copy.

I acquire my own copy and have now read it for the third time.
Tracey
Nov 17, 2007 rated it it was ok
Shelves: borrowed
Borrowed from hospice volunteer coordinator

The "special awareness" element of the book was a bit too New-Agey for me, but I found some useful information for my hospice volunteer work. The examples of the dying using metaphors in talking about their condition (one boating enthusiast wanted to make sure his maps and compass in good order) were very ... intriguing.
Sarah
Sep 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Sarah by: my Mom
This book was a true blessing to me, my Mom, and my sisters. I'm thankful it appeared in my life in time to read it and absorb it before Dad started giving us his final gifts. I would read it again. And I would very much encourage anyone who has been given the gift of knowing a loved one is going to leave this world and see Jesus, read it, share the knowledge, and LISTEN.
Sally Smith
Apr 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
I read this book for a pastoral care course I'm taking and was fascinated and encouraged by the stories that these 2 hospice nurses tell about working with dying people. I've learned a lot about this and I'm really glad I read it.
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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.” 2 likes
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