This spring, spirituality and religion publishers once again have a host of new titles to help the reader navigate the choppy waters of aging, a devastating diagnosis, or the death of a loved one.
“Out of the 15–20 new books we publish each year, five of them deal with aging and illness,” says Stuart Matlins, publisher of Jewish Lights and SkyLight Paths. “So this is an important area for us and one in which we pioneer.” In Jewish Wisdom for Growing Older: Finding Your Grit & Grace Beyond Midlife (Jewish Lights, Mar.), Rabbi Dayle A. Friedman (see profile, p. 41) offers reflections drawn from Jewish traditions to help seekers of all faiths find resilience as they age. For the practical matters that must be attended to with death, there is Ethical Wills & How to Prepare Them: A Guide to Sharing Your Values from Generation to Generation (Jewish Lights, Apr.), by Rabbi Jack Riemer and Nathaniel Stampfer.
Other faiths weigh in, too—in You’ll Never Be Younger: A Good News Spirituality for Those Over 60 (Orbis, Mar.), William J. O’Malley provides a Catholic view of what it means to lead a good life in later years. From Protestant publisher Eerdmans comes Loving Later Life: An Ethics of Aging (Apr.), by Frits de Lange, who shows how an ethics of love can help with facing and overcoming the fear of aging, as well as change attitudes toward the elderly.
Of course, illness can strike at any age. When he was 39, Christian theologian J. Todd Billings (see profile, p. 40) was diagnosed with a rare and incurable cancer. In Rejoicing in Lament: Wrestling with Incurable Cancer and Life in Christ (Brazos, Feb.), Billings grapples with the hard questions—“Why me?” “Why now?” Brazos editorial director and associate publisher Jim Kinney says, “Rejoicing in Lament offers no easy answers, for there are none. But there is real help and hope as we come to see our stories of pain and grief incorporated into God’s larger story of redemption.”
When speaker and writer Michele Cushatt got the bad cancer news at 39, she wondered who would care for her children, and how she could live with her fear of death. Cushatt writes of the surprising ways her fear has turned into joy in Undone: A Story of Making Peace with an Unexpected Life (Zondervan, Mar.).
No one is prepared for the death of a child, whether by illness, accident, or, harder still, suicide. Three new books recount losses of sons who died too young and too suddenly.
In Finding Peter: A True Story of the Hand of Providence and Evidence of Life After Death (Regnery, Mar.), The Exorcist author and screenwriter William Peter Blatty relates the supernatural events he believes he experienced in the midst of his grief following the death of his young son Peter from a rare heart condition. He became convinced that Peter was sending messages to him from the afterlife and living on in Blatty’s life. The book has a 100,000-copy first printing.
In The Hope of Heaven: God’s Eight Messages of Assurance to a Grieving Father (Thomas Nelson, Mar.), Alan M. Hallene Jr. writes of experiencing eight visions of heaven just after he discovered his college student son Alex’s body when the young man hanged himself. In the visions he and his son were reunited in the afterlife.
When Jan Harrison’s 27-year-old son, James, died unexpectedly of pneumonia, she struggled to weather grief that threatened to swamp her. In Life After the Storm: God Will Carry You Through (Harvest House, Apr.), Harrison tells readers that Jesus will “walk you through your storm and take you to the other side of the crisis.”
Several spring books deal with losing a spouse. Following the death of her husband, Gayle Roper writes about what it means to be alone in A Widow’s Journey: Reflections on Walking Alone (Harvest House, Mar.). Funeral director Dee Oliver brings a unique perspective to the subject of widowhood and grief in The Undertaker’s Wife: A True Story of Love, Loss, and Laughter in the Unlikeliest of Places (Zondervan, Mar.).
In A Faithful Farewell: Living Your Last Chapter with Love (Eerdmans, Apr.), Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, professor of medical humanities at UC Berkeley, asks, “When the time comes for us to die, how do we say goodbye to our friends, our families, and the lives we have lived? How do we remain faithful—to God, to ourselves, and to loved ones—as we face our final journey?” She offers 52 brief meditations on topics ranging from anger and doubt to loss of privacy and family conflict.