Book Reviews

A Very Important Read…Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

“Why would a football fan let a few flubbed minutes at the end of the game ruin three hours of bliss? Because a football game is a story. And in stories, endings matter.”

Being MortalBeing Mortal by Atul Gawande will forever stay with me. This thought-provoking and important book felt like that quote to me while listening to it. Stories. Stories where the ending is just as important (maybe more so) that the beginning and middle of people’s lives.

Gawande focuses on elder care but also shares some patients’ stories who were younger and had terminal illnesses with important decisions to make. He honestly divulges his own shortcomings as a doctor with the challenging dance between offering information and guidance, something not taught in medical school.

I listened to this on audio and honestly it gave me some anxiety. I was the college student who put off taking the electives until summer school because the only one not filled was Death and Dying. It’s always been a subject I have struggled with. But Gawande’s approach felt more like a memoir than scientific jargon. And it worked wonderfully for me. Yes, very heartbreaking at times, but gave me such insight into the world of “elderhood” and how important connection, independence and choice are for those in their final stages of life.

“A few conclusions become clear when we understand this: that our most cruel failure in how we treat the sick and the aged is the failure to recognize that they have priorities beyond merely being safe and living longer; that the chance to shape one’s story is essential to sustaining meaning in life; that we have the opportunity to refashion our institutions, our culture, and our conversations in ways that transform the possibilities for the last chapters of everyone’s lives.”

After the book, I spent hours online looking up doctors and experts of geriatric medicine mentioned in the book and came across a TED talk with Dr. Bill Thomas who is the founder of Changing Aging. Elderhood Rising is an important video as times are changing and we have many more people living longer and deserve proper care.

As I mentioned, I fell into the rabbit hole of “Elderhood” and ended up checking out this video from the library called Alive Inside. I can’t stress enough how important this video is. If you are looking to do something charitable, get involved in some way with your kids, reach many people across all genders and races, love music, want to impact one person…watch this video. This documentary came out in 2014 and won the hearts of audiences at Sundance. Mine too.

“In the end, people don’t view their life as merely the average of all its moments—which, after all, is mostly nothing much plus some sleep. For human beings, life is meaningful because it is a story. A story has a sense of a whole, and its arc is determined by the significant moments, the ones where something happens. Measurements of people’s minute-by-minute levels of pleasure and pain miss this fundamental aspect of human existence. A seemingly happy life maybe empty. A seemingly difficult life may be devoted to a great cause. We have purposes larger than ourselves.”

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