I’ve always read books to not only better understand the exterior world, but also my own interior world.
In doing this, I tend to read a lot of non-fiction books including biographies, autobiographies and cultural histories.
But I usually stay well away from the self help genre as I’ve always found these types of books paint a rather simplistic view of the world.
Also, I’m not really interested in the “top ten steps’ to be healthier, smarter or more successful etc.
However, after reading a thoughtful review I decided to read Marie de Hennezel’s Seize the Day: how the dying teach us to live.
Despite the title, de Hennezel’s book isn’t really a ‘self help’ book in the traditional sense and certainy doesn’t follow the genre’s standard structure.
Rather it details her experiences as a psychologist working in a palliative care home in Paris. She writes with compassion about her patients, the staff who work there and essentially what drives her to do the type of work she does.
I found great comfort in this elegantly written book, especially as I was dealing with a recent death in the family that involved palliative care.
The patient’s stories are deeply moving and told with great humanity. Moreover, de Hennezel reveals that despite each person's unique history what connects them all is the underlying theme: the need to accept death as part of life. And it is often the families of the dying patients who struggle with this acceptance.
For de Hennezel her role is to just be there for a patient, as a witness to their death but also their life. She writes about these experiences with such a strong, clear and passionate voice.
This was a deeply moving book that helped me better understand some of my own feelings, experiences and emotions.
Like all great books, it doesn't provide any easy answers because there really are no such things in our complicated exterior and interior worlds.