Sunday, April 14, 2024

#105 / A Guest Book Review


I have previously mentioned Hadley Vlahos and her book, which is titled, The In-Between. If you would like to read my earlier blog posting, here is where to click. In that earlier blog posting, I commented on a conversation between Vlahos and New York Times writer David Marchese. Marchese superintends the "Talk" column at The Times, which appears in the newspaper's Sunday magazine. The column focusing on Vlahos is dated October 21, 2023. 

Vlahos is a hospice nurse, but my earlier discussion didn't really center on that. My attention was captured by Vlahos' assertion that she often had the feeling, after one of her patients had passed, that the world was unaware of the significance of that person:

There’s this moment, especially when I’ve taken care of someone for a while, where I’ll walk outside and I’ll go fill up my gas tank and it’s like: Wow, all these other people have no idea that we just lost someone great. The world lost somebody great, and they’re getting a sandwich. 

I was struck by that observation because it is my belief that we very seldom understand the point that I think Vlahos was recognizing with her comment. We are all great. We are all important. We don't even recognize that ourselves. Generally, I cite to Ugo Betti when I say this. Click right here to find out something about Betti that you won't get from the Wikipedia article that I have linked to his name.

At any rate, my earlier blog posting didn't really get into Vlahos' work as a hospice nurse, nor did it much feature the main thrust of The In-Between, which is accurately described on its front cover as a book containing "unforgettable encounters during life's final moments." My lack of much comment on the central message of Vlahos' book, in that earlier blog posting, is of course quite natural, since I had not read the book. All I had read was just the Marchese column.

In what was a pleasaant surprise to me, someone who had read that earlier blog posting of mine went out and got Vlahos' book, and then sent me an email to thank me for drawing her attention to it. She did read the book (which I hadn't done), and the email I received constituted what might be thought of as a "guest book review." Here it is:

I want to tell you about the Hadley Vlahos book you mentioned in your blog #334 from last year, "We've Just Lost Someone Great."

I'd bought it online [and] I think it is a fantastic book, in part because it is accessible to most people who have any interest in death, whether natural or forced by circumstances to finally have to face it...  Actually I couldn't stop reading it, though I tried to manage it in measured doses like my antibiotics. I think she's done a profound thing in a very simple format, which normally would make me judge it to be less-than-serious....

So - I'll bet your local library has a copy, since it was on the NYT bestseller list for weeks last year, according to that NYT interview you referred to in your piece. I'd say it's an easy read ... but I don't think it's lightweight. I am profoundly grateful to you for bringing it to my/our attention!

Well, given this review, I thought I had better read Vlahos' book for myself! And so I did, and I am glad I did! I am writing this blog posting to say that I absolutely agree with my "guest book reviewer." Vlahos' book is, I think, profound.

Take it from me, or from my guest reviewer. Hadley Vlahos' book is recommended!

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