The American Book of Living and Dying

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  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 2009-08-18
  • Publisher: Celestial Arts

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This nondenominational resource provides reassurance

Author Biography

RICHARD F. GROVES is the founder of the internationally renowned Sacred Art of Living and Dying educational series, which teaches participants how to alleviate spiritual and emotional distress at the end of life. A hospice chaplain for nearly thirty years, Richard has attended the deaths of more than five hundred people. He speaks nine languages and has earned graduate degrees in theology, ethics, law, and pastoral counseling. Richard and his wife, Mary, established the Sacred Art of Living Center in Bend, Oregon, twenty-five years ago, where he still resides today.

HENRIETTE ANNE KLAUSER, Ph.D., is the author of four books, including the best-selling Writing on Both Sides of the Brain and Write It Down, Make It Happen. She is the president of Writing Resources, a seminar and consulting organization, as well as an active lecturer, workshop leader, and freelance writer. Henriette Anne is dedicated to helping people use the power of the written word to build relationships, bring families together, and heal emotional wounds. She lives in Edmonds, Washington.


The Original Hospice: The Art of Dying Well

Apply yourself now, that at the hour of death, you may be glad and unafraid.
–Thomas à Kempis

The word hospice comes from the same root word as the terms hostel and hospitality. Hospice conjures up images of Swiss Alpine shelters, complete with a St. Bernard dog wearing his signature brandy cask. These original hospices were indeed places of respite for weary medieval pilgrims. Like early B & Bs, hospices dotted Europe’s high Alpine landscape, which followed ancient Roman trade routes. Some of the oldest hospices, created by physician-monks and nuns, trace their lineage back to the year 1000 a.d.

The hospice infirmary was an essential part of an institution where travelers also fell sick and died. Within the relatively safe walls of European monastic communities, the West thus created its first hospital and health care system. A library of records still exists that refer to a larger tradition popularly called the ars moriendi, or the art of dying.

Many ancient cultures produced books of the dead. In recent years there has been a revival of interest in writings like theTibetan Book of the Dyingand the Celtic Books of the Dead. Few Americans realize that, a thousand years ago, the West also produced its own book of the dying. At the turn of the last millennium, early in the eleventh century a.d., a convergence of many great traditions took place in the heart of Europe. The result became an ingenious collection of wisdom with the bold nameArs Bene Moriendi,or the Art of Dying Well.

Aspects of this ancient healing art are relevant today. Just knowing that an entire society was once committed to doing whatever it took to support the peaceful dying of its citizens is impressive. Thears sacra moriendi,considered a sacred art because of its care for both body and soul, became a blueprint of the original Western hospice that survived for nearly five hundred years.

Our Western ancestors created guides and manuals for their work, but there was no “one size fits all” model to relieve spiritual pain. During the Middle Ages, there was a distinction between art and science. Science was responsible for finding and applying universal principles; art referred to the application of science to a person or thing. At the end of life, the caregiver’s art was to find a unique way to relieve a particular person’s struggles and fears.

Few places on earth have preserved the spirit of the West’s ancient hospice movement like the medieval town of Beaune (pronouncedbone) in Southeastern France.

A Vision from the Past: God’s Hotel

The only measure of a society’s greatness depends upon
how it cares for the poorest of its poor at the end of life.
–Nicholas of Rolin, Founder of l’Hôtel-Dieu

Approaching the village of Beaune today, the modern pilgrim feels dropped into a dream from long ago. Situated in the famous wine-growing region of Burgundy, Beaune is one of Europe’s great trading crossroads. Inside its fortresslike walls is a world-heritage site called l’Hôtel-Dieu, or God’s Hotel.

The Hospices de Beaune was conceived in the mid-fifteenth century, prior to the demise of Europe’s original hospice movement, only a few years after France’s patron saint, Joan of Arc, was burned at the stake. During Europe’s bloody Hundred Years’ War, the lot of the average peasant was desperate. Roving bands of murderers, rapists, and extortionists spread terror throughout the countryside, as one of Europe’s last devastating plagues decimated entire populations. Life and death for the average person was brutish.

In the midst of this despair, the region’s chancellor, Nicolas Rolin, convinced both king and pope to exempt the newly con

Excerpted from The American Book of Living and Dying: Lessons in Healing Spiritual Pain by Richard Groves, Henriette Anne Klauser, Henriette A. Klauser, Richard F. Groves
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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