cover image Heartwood: The Art of Living with the End in Mind

Heartwood: The Art of Living with the End in Mind

Barbara Becker. Flatiron, $25.99 (224p) ISBN 978-1-250-09598-5

Minister Becker debuts with a stirring chronicle of the events, moments, and stories that led to her reconciliation with mortality. The death of Becker’s friend from cancer at age 40 (a “struggle that made me profoundly unsettled”) inspired her to look back on how she has dealt with her own misfortunes of miscarriages, sickness, and accidents. Particularly affecting are the chapters that focus on the bittersweet surprises of hospice care, such as Becker getting closer to her mother and finally understanding her mother’s zest for life while witnessing her dying days. Becker also reflects on how to respect the long-dead, such as the creation of a Zen “water children” ceremony in the park “to honor the losses of children, born and unborn, in the community.” The final chapter reckons with one’s own mortality, specifically Becker’s multiple cancer scares, how these brought on feelings of peace, and the admittance that those peaceful feelings were fleeting. Becker’s eloquence is a salve for confronting a difficult topic: “There was a tremendous sense of freedom in catching even a tiny glimpse of this web of interconnection, as if nothing existed outside its beautiful cosmic structure.” This will be a comfort for anyone contemplating their own mortality, or those in search of advice for others. (May)