This book contains 17 short stories, all set in an in-patient hospice, all exploring the reactions of patients and their caregivers--both family members and professionals--to the last stages of terminal illness. A woman struggles to find the strength to write last letters to her loved ones, nurses are surprised when a seemingly unconscious patient suddenly joins in their conversation; the hospice chaplain becomes a patient; and so on. In the title story, a dying woman's daughter finally manages to answer honestly when her mother asks when death will come: "Soon."


These stories present the experience of dying in hospice care in a reassuring and warm light. They do not present the pain or the horror of terminal illness, focusing unwaveringly on small moments of transcendence and redemption, and on the value of care and acceptance and communication. Alone, they do not present a complete sense of dying, if only because most of the characters seem so very nice, but they do provide valuable insights into the way the details of daily life make dying a continuation of living.

They also express the struggle of the dying to convey their experience to those they love, and the struggle of those left behind to imagine it: "Mr. Straughn wanted to send, wanted desperately to say--if not whole words, then at least crumbs flung backwards as he went ahead, so we wouldn't be so lost when the time comes for us to follow, as it surely must" (135).



Place Published

Cambridge, Mass.



Page Count