FROM SUN TO SUN
A memoir that explores the tender mercies of hospice care.
In this intimate nonfiction account of her experiences as a hospice nurse, debut author McKissock tells bittersweet stories in which she and her patients are the central characters and her hard-earned wisdom about dying is the major theme. “In this
country we think of dying primarily as a medical event. “It’s much more than that,” she writes. The author supplies sufficient graphic detail to satisfy our fearful curiosity about the end-of-life symptoms referred to here as a “actively dying.” She describes the specific pharmaceuticals that, we are told, can make dying as natural as “an uncomplicated birth.” Each chapter tells the story of a particular person–an internationally renowned ballet dancer, a wealthy art collector, a baby girl whom she cared for, all during his or her final days. With an open-minded attitude toward the mysteries of life and death, the author has produced a memoir filled with surprises. The book celebrates hospice nurses, the best of whom act with kindness, efficiency and optimism, serving as calm and as “midwives for the dying.” As such, it restores luster to the somewhat tarnished reputation of the hospice industry, which began as a nonprofit movement but has since attracted big business and private equity investors seeking large profits. That financial story is not part of this personal narrative, which never lags as the experienced hospice nurse moves from one patients story to the next and reveals an inner life in which her own death is never far from her mind. It may be quibbling to point out that, in several instances, the author inadvertently repeats almost word for word a sentence she used elsewhere in the book, as when she describes a patient lifting a pinkie finger: “To a hospice nurse, that is like a big high-five.” The revelation that dying in hospice care can be an emotionally uplifting last chapter of life is one of many in the book.
This tenderly rendered addition to the literature on hospice care deserves the widest possible audience.