Is there an art to dying? And if there is, what can we do to achieve a good death? We have few special rituals to prepare for death, or to mark it, and we often fail to help the dying prepare for death. "The Art of Dying" contains accounts by the dying, and those who have been with the dying in their final hours, which help us to understand that death is a process. The experiences suggest that we are looked after throughout the transition from life to death, and taken on a journey into love and light by loved ones who come back to take us. Other accounts are from people who have been emotionally close to someone and who, unaware that the person they love is dying, experience a sudden strong sense of their presence or an intimation of their death. Rational, scientific explanations for these experiences are hard to find, and it is almost impossible, in the face of them, to sustain the current scientific view that our consciousness is entirely brain-based, and that it is extinguished at the moment our brain ceases to function. The world is more highly interconnected and more complex than the simple mechanical model we have followed for so long.
The evidence suggests we are more than brain function, and that something - soul or spirit or consciousness - will continue in some form or another for a while at least. We can ensure a "good death" for ourselves and help those we love achieve it too. "The Art of Dying" demonstrates that we can face death with a peaceful and untroubled mind; that death is not a lonely or a fearful journey, but an intensely hopeful one.
Dr Peter Fenwick is an internationally renowned neuropsychiatrist and a Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. He is Britain's leading clinical authority on near-death experiences and is president of the British branch of The International Association for Near-Death Studies. He also holds appointments at the Maudsley Hospital, the John Radcliffe Hospital, and the Broadmoor Special Hospital for Violent Offenders. Elizabeth Fenwick has written a number of books on health and family issues. She has produced books on pregnancy and child care, worked as an agony aunt advising on sexual problems on radio and in Company magazine and has been involved in sex education in two London schools. She also worked for three years as a counsellor for Childline.
1. Stories about death and dying: background and history of end of life experiences; 2. Doctors and the dying; 3. Death bed visions; 4. Death bed coincidences; 5. Looking for answers; 6. Grandfather's clock and other odd incidents; 7. Visions of light; 8. A search for the soul; 9. The last frontier: the unsolved problem of consciousness; 10. Dying a good death; 11. A journey to elsewhere.