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Sunsets Review by Wendy WalkerBy Deborah Howard, RN, CHPN
1510 E Spencer Lake Rd
Shelton, WA 98584
Last year, thanks to Hospice care, I held my grandpa's hand, kissed his cheek, and said "good-bye" as he took his final breath in the familiar surroundings of his own home. How comforting it would have been to have read Deborah Howard's book Sunsets prior to my grandfather's terminal illness. The book is intended to help equip "anyone who is dying, anyone who knows someone who is dying, or anyone who wants to learn how to help and comfort those who are dying." From her experience as a Hospice nurse and as a believer in Jesus Christ, Howard compassionately addresses issues about life's end that are so often avoided by both non-Christians and Christians alike.
Sunsets serves a three-fold purpose. First, it explains the assistance that Hospice provides to terminally-ill patients and their families. Through both factual details and anecdotal illustrations, Howard shares the heart and motivation of Hospice staff members and volunteers. During my grandfather's last months, he came to delight in his regular visits from Hospice personnel. Their loving attention meant a great deal to him and comforted my grandmother as she cared for him. Though I'd seen Hospice in action, I didn't understood the philosophy or the range of services provided until I read this book. The book's appendix provides additional material, answering specific Hospice-related questions. If you've ever wondered about Hospice care and how Hospice might provide much-needed support during the dying process, this is a must-read.
Second, Sunsets prepares the reader for the signs, symptoms, and realities of death. Howard describes the emotional and physical changes that the terminally ill typically face. She explains the clues nurses look for during the last hours of a person's life (such as changes in breathing, skin, heart rate, and temperature). Howard even offers counsel for understanding the special needs of caregivers and for facing the inevitable grief that accompanies the loss of a loved-one.
Thirdly, and most importantly, the book tackles the real issue: God's control over death. With biblically grounded and referenced support, Howard answers questions about heaven, hell, the purposes of suffering, angels, and the sovereignty of God in salvation. How wonderful to be reminded of the hope that all true believers look forward to. Despite the anguish we face as the physical self fades, there is delight "on the other side." As I read, I often found myself vocalizing quiet "amens" as I was reminded afresh of the wonder of a Lord who is absolutely authoritative, perfectly just, and overwhelmingly loving and good.
Howard's readable book should be added to every Christian's library. Having perused this "instrument of comfort," I feel better equipped to handle the inevitable trials that accompany death. Whether you want to share the Good News with the lost, open your home to a dying loved-one, or prepare yourself for life's end, this reasonably priced book is well worth the investment.