Book Review: Dying Well by Dr. Ira Byock

| By Casa de la Luz

Working in hospice tends to change your perspective on life, for the better, I believe.  I have noticed that I tend to hug my children more often.  I am less likely to get upset at my husband over little annoyances.  I am less afraid of this topic: death.   Therefore, my reading list has changed dramatically.  A few years ago, I am not sure this title, Dying Well by hospice and palliative care physician Dr. Ira Byock, would have made the list. However, it is now among many books in my reading collection of the same topic. 

In this book, Dr. Ira Byock delves into the final stages of life through the perspective of several patients he helped care for during their time on hospice care.  Each patient’s experience of nearing death is unique and personal, allowing the reader to see different perspectives on a phase of life we all will eventually go through. 

Most impressive to me was that Dr. Byock opens the book with his own personal experience of helping a dying loved one, his own father.  You are immediately brought in to the most intimate details of a family going through just what we all fear the most for our own loved ones: the first symptoms, the diagnosis, the treatment, the hope, the treatment failure, and finally, the realization that this person you love is going to die. 

I will admit to having my eyes well with tears on several occasions while reading this book.  But, it was just as uplifting and life affirming.  Dr. Byock eloquently details the emotional roller coaster that he and his family, as well as the other families in the book, go through during this end of life journey with their ailing loved one, and how hospice care helped them. 

I highly recommend this book to anyone, especially those going through similar circumstances.  It verifies that there is no one right way to behave under these circumstances.  Each family, each person is going to have different emotions and different ways of dealing with those emotions. Some may accept their fate willingly; others will fight until their final breath.  Some families may come together quickly while others may be torn apart initially. 

In the end, each of the patients and families portrayed says good-bye to one another in their own perfect way.  That is the definition of dying well.

By Brandie Kiracofe, Operations Supervisor

Editor’s Note: The Casa de la Luz Foundation is pleased to welcome Dr. Ira Byock back to Tucson this November for the Foundation’s annual end of life conference. Read the press release about the event here.

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