Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Love and Death

Love and Death: My Journey Through the Vally of the Shadow
© F. Forrester Church 2008
145 pages

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"Want what you have. Do what you can. Be who you are." - author's personal motto

When typing my comments for Our Chosen Faith: An Introduction to Unitarian Universalism, I visited the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations website and saw that one of the book's co-authors, F. Forrester Church, had recently died from cancer. I learned from his obituary that before his death he penned a book on death and dying called Love and Death. I was immediately interested in what a dying man had to say about the subject and decided to read it as my way of paying respects.

The theme of love and death was a common one for Church, having sermonized about it many times. He wrote in this book that when he was diagnosed with cancer, he became strangely anticipatory, describing himself as a student who had long studied for the examination of dying and wanted to see if he would prove worthy. Church believes that death is an essential part of the human experience, one that defines us and gives rise to religion -- which he defines as the human response to the twin truths of both being alive and having to die. After introducing the book, he delves into his history of death, reflecting on the deaths of friends and family that have marked his personal life and his service as a minister. He does this to establish why he views death with the grace he does, and once it is established he begins to speak as a minister -- offering meditations and advice.

The book appears to be written for those who are or who have loved ones who are dying, as well as to those who have recently lost loved ones. Neither of these categories apply to me, at least not to my knowledge, but still I was able to receive a great deal from his message. The book is very personal: it's not something one should read on the subway. The book isn't just read, it's experienced. I don't think I'll soon forget my own time spent reading it, and as a result of it I intend to read more of Church as I am able and recommend Love and Death to you.

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