Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison comes under the category of “Books to Be Read on an Annual Basis”—like Augustine’s Confessions, King Lear, or anything by Flannery O’Connor. In general, we read too many books and return to too few.
A member of the congregation I serve died this week. It was fitting. The shadows of death linger about us this week. Like Peter, warming his hands by the blazing fire, trying to hide and catch glimpses of what Jesus suffered, I stood at the edge of the Holy Week shadows, watching for this central drama of mortality to unfold.
Since most people today die of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, stroke or dementia, and many live with these diseases for years, this handbook will be enormously helpful for pastors, patients and families. The book gives compassionate and sensible guidance to those seeking to negotiate the difficult spiritual and medical terrain that surrounds the experience of dying.
When I came home from the hospital with a broken ankle, I was feeling fragile and sick from pain and the anesthetic I had been given. I sank quickly and gratefully into the sturdy green recliner in the exercise room.
It was my last day at St. Benedict's Monastery in Minnesota, where I had been leading a retreat on Julian of Norwich. Since St. Benedict's is one of my favorite places in the world, I wasn't really ready to come home, and put off calling with my travel arrangements until evening.