In Lieu of Flowers: A Conversation for the Living

Nancy Cobb, Author
Nancy Cobb, Author Pantheon Books $19.95 (176p) ISBN 978-0-375-40341-5
Paperback - 176 pages - 978-0-375-71448-1
Open Ebook - 79 pages - 978-0-307-42633-8
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In this brief book--part memoir, part meditation--Cobb (How They Met) pushes us to address death ""as lovingly"" as we deal with birth or as analytically as we approach cooking. The author herself has seen both her parents die, yet she has found exultation within grief, in the form of ""ordinary miracles"" at the hospice where her mother died, such as when her mother whispered her last words, ""I am so happy."" Cobb suggests that ""the essence of a person"" perseveres in infirmity; indeed, her dying mother remained her crusty self despite her Alzheimer's. ""Grief activates empathy,"" Cobb claims, yet she recognizes that, while it's important to listen, others' stories of losing loved ones serve as suggestions rather than prescriptions for each person's unique experience. Maintaining that ""grief needs a place to go"" over time, Cobb recommends taking the initiative with someone suffering a loss, doing something useful rather than giving advice. Some of Cobb's stories about her life and her friends range afield, and a few observations seem obvious, such as that some friends will fall away when illness hits. Cobb also has some New-Age tendencies (""I believe the dead linger,"" she declares; later, she ends a chapter with several anecdotes about well-loved birds appearing after a death). Still, this touching book for the most part avoids sentimentality and, despite its meandering, holds some worthy wisdom. (Apr.)
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