Taking up from where we left off in last week’s post, someone pointed out that while there are books for the bereaved, there is a dearth of such books for the dying. Besides the constantly shifting population of such an audience, even finding them and letting them know about such literature would feel exploitative to me. Whenever I read a post by someone who is describing their own endgame for example, I steer clear of making requests, even just of their reading time, since they are in crisis or near to it. The answer, of course, is to hope friends of the dying will chance upon relevant materials and pass them on, so to speak.
That being said, I think in the end this is an unanswerable question. I remember seeing an article about a similar subject, namely, what music a dying person might want to listen to. (Sorry, I have lost track of the reference.) They came up with serious choices like Mozart’s Requiem, or very peaceful sounding and soothing pieces like Barber’s Adagio for Strings. But what I think I or others might want to hear when the time comes might be wrong for at least two reasons: First I must ask myself, do I have some stereotype in my mind about what people need when they die? Suppose they want something energetic and rebellious like Pink Floyd’s We Don’t Want No Education, or something the antithesis of inspirational like the Beatles’ The Fool on the Hill?
For another thing, how could I possibly know what I might be in the mood for when I reach my dying days? I don’t even know what kind of music I will feel like listening to next week! Such things as what I want to listen to or what I want to read from day to day partly arises from recent influences, how tumultuous or tedious or uplifting the week has been, and what I happen to find while browsing.
The subscriber I quoted from last week on this same topic added, right after her question that “I might want to read everything I could get my hands on…..or maybe I wouldn’t.” Just as there might not be a one-size-fits-all afterlife in store for each of us, our must- or must not- read book list may vary widely as we all approach the last pages of our own stories.
Next post: Book review of Art Buchwald’s Stella in Heaven