In the Midst of Life

In her last book, In the Midst of Life, Jennifer Worth tackles the subject of palliative care.  After her work in the East End (remember her previous books Call the Midwife, Shadows of the Workhouse, and Farewell to the East End), Worth became a nurse on a cancer ward, so her thoughts on the end of life are full of her observations and experiences with changing perspectives on and standards of care for those who are dying.

As you’d expect, the stories in this book are not as lighthearted as some in her previous work, but Worth’s thoughtful and nuanced exploration of how we think about and prepare for death, and how we care for those who are dying are moving and insightful.  I have had several conversations with people about these issues since reading the book, and am still thinking on some of the topics.

Mostly the book helped me to understand realities of issues that before I had not considered or had only seen in movies.  What is it like when someone dies at home?  What does resuscitation actually do and how effective is it?  What does hospice care mean and what is the reasoning behind it?  What happens when people die of old age or of cancer or of a heart attack?  What are the philosophical and moral and spiritual ideas behind different methods of caring for people in the last stages of life?

What the author presented her experiences and opinions, I thought she did a good job of handling the issues with grace and balance.  Worth did not hide the fact that her faith influenced her thinking on death and palliative care, but her discussion of the issues highlighted the way faith and philosophy inform the decisions rather than seeming prescriptive (in fact, I did not agree with some of her conclusions, shared faith notwithstanding, but I didn’t feel bashed).  Many subjects surrounding death are taboo or just things healthy people never think about, and in some cases the public’s lack of understanding or forethought leads to bad policy or standards.  This is the sort of book that might be helpful if you’re navigating end of life issues for a family member, but really it would be much better to read it well before you have to grapple with these things, so that you can have had time to think about them.

In the Midst of Life was an excellent finale to Worth’s memoirs about nursing.  Well written, compassionate, and packed with food for thought, In the Midst of Life is a book I’d recommend to anyone.


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4 thoughts on “In the Midst of Life

  1. So glad you liked this! It was such a helpful book for me and I think she offers so much wisdom as well as food for thought. It’s certainly a subject that few want to talk about these days.
    Heather L. recently posted..Words and Wool

  2. Since I enjoyed reading her other work, I have this on my reading list! On this subject, I’d highly recommend the book “Sunsets” by Deborah Howard. We have now bought this book for more friends than I can remember. People don’t enjoy talking about it, but it is something that we all will face. This author writes as a Christian hospice nurse and does an excellent job of informing and walking folks through options they might face. If you read it like I did with dear ones in mind, you might cry your way through it, but find yourself grateful for it. A number of friends we’ve given to have bought multiple copies to give to all their family members. Highly recommend.

  3. I’m half-way through this one right now and am enjoying the information it gives. Lots of food for thought! With Joshua’s medical background we discuss these types of things frequently (usually me coming to him with questions and him dialoging with what I’ve read/heard/learned/thought). 🙂
    Tammy L recently posted..New Recipe: Best Ever Blueberry Muffins

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