How do you say goodbye to someone you love? The Vissell family: Barry, Joyce, Rami, Mira and John-Nuri share an intimate experience of the dying process of Joyce’s mother, Louise Wollenberg in the new release entitled A Mother’s Final Gift: How One Woman’s Courageous Dying Transformed Her Family. I have known Barry and Joyce for more than 20 years and have read each of their books which include The Shared Heart, Light In The Mirror and Meant To Be (I was honored to be one of the contributing authors in that book in a story called Dancing With Angels). Although they are all empowering in their own way, this, by far, is the most poignant, heart opening and soul searing. Page by page, they offer their perspective on death as seen through their eyes, as well as those of Louise whose own mother died at an early age, soon after giving birth to her sister.
When Joyce was a newly married woman, her mother shared with her that she viewed death as a great advcnture and that when her time came, she asked Joyce to celebrate and not just grieve. Joyce wasn’t able to wrap her mind around that concept initially but when called on, she gracefully approached her mother’s passing, taking the journey with her. Step by step, the family candidly expresses a mixture of emotions as they go about the daily caregiving tasks and the wonder of hearing Louise speak about returning Home to her beloved husband who had died years earlier and the angels who visited her, sharing insights and inspiration as she transitioned.
Barry is a medical doctor and Joyce a nurse, and yet, they found that their professional education only went so far to prepare them for this experience. They each lost their fathers suddenly, so for them, Louise’s process allowed them the sweetness of goodbyes, of leaving nothing left unsaid. Their young adult children, Rami, Mira and John-Nuri each took on caregiving roles and their individual contributions to the book are well thought out and beautifully written. With humor and heart, the family and Louise’s many friends made her dying a humanly divine and divinely human experience.
I needed to take breaks while reading the book, since tears blurred my vision. The Vissell’s story so mirrored my own with my mother’s recent death and I would imagine that many who have faced the death of loved ones, would recognize themselves as well.
Hospice offered respite and support and was indeed a God-send for them. A Mother’s Final Gift is also a gift for the reader and reminder that death need not be feared and that we can celebrate the life of, even as we grieve the passing of those closest to us. Love transcends death.