Happier Endings: A Meditation on Life and Death

Overview

“Extreme empathy with extreme tough-mindedness.” That’s how David Brooks, of The New York Times, describes Erica Brown. In Happier Endings, she helps us confront our fears about death—for ourselves and our loved ones—and demonstrates how the last days of life can be among the most inspiring if we learn to leave a legacy of words and values, to forgive and apologize, and to make important decisions.

Along the way, she introduces us to people of all faiths who deal with death in ...

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Happier Endings: A Meditation on Life and Death

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Overview

“Extreme empathy with extreme tough-mindedness.” That’s how David Brooks, of The New York Times, describes Erica Brown. In Happier Endings, she helps us confront our fears about death—for ourselves and our loved ones—and demonstrates how the last days of life can be among the most inspiring if we learn to leave a legacy of words and values, to forgive and apologize, and to make important decisions.

Along the way, she introduces us to people of all faiths who deal with death in enlightening ways, including a mother who arranged for her children to sprinkle her ashes on a favorite ski slope; an ex-nun who prepares people to die; a group of women who ritually wash their dead; and a family whose grandfather’s ethical will is read by his survivors each year. After reading Happier Endings, you will have a greater understanding of what a good death can be and what a life well lived looks like.

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Editorial Reviews

Bruce Feiler
"Erica Brown is the teacher we all want and the guide we all need. Happier Endings is an elegant portrait of the most powerful part of being human: how we live. From the wisdom of the Bible to the frontier of the Internet, this important book makes the persuasive case that the final years of life are among the most critical – and the most meaningful. Bravo."
David Gregory
"Erica Brown has a unique voice. A woman of faith, she speaks to everyone searching for God and greater meaning. In Happier Endings, Erica explores our attitudes toward death by helping us identify what it means to be alive. She inspires and she reminds us what is most important before we say goodbye."
The New York Times - David Brooks
“Brown has what many people are looking for these days….conviction.”
Daniel Silva
"Erica Brown is wise and brilliant, with a refreshing sense of humor and an enriching perspective on some of life's great challenges. Readers will find comfort and sustenance in her words."
The Wall Street Journal
"Cathartic"
Spirituality & Health
“With sensitivity, humor, and unflinching honesty. . . [Happier Endings] is at times emotionally eviscerating but ultimately inspiring, as it expounds upon a simple truth: no one knows what tomorrow will bring.”
Washington Post
Happier Endings brings a cheery note to a dreary subject. . . . We have no choice about being mortal, but we do have some freedom, as Happier Endings reminds us, in choosing how we live with this awareness and how we make our exit.”
Publishers Weekly
Living well seems to be the fixation of every disposition and discipline; there is never a shortage of opinions. Dying well, however, has traditionally fallen to the philosopher. Confronting death head on, Brown (Inspired Jewish Leadership) illustrates a practical stance on approaching the unknown. We all will die, so why avoid the inevitable? But why expedite it as well? Despite America's youth-obsessed and aging-averse culture, significant progress is being made in the field of thanatology (the study of death), and Brown establishes her place among the heavyweights of the field—even suggesting an additional stage to Kubler-Ross's five stages of death: inspiration. As the dark matter of life, death affects many aspects of everyday living; the financial, in the booming and discomforting "death industry" and embalming dedicated to preserving remains; the medical, with treatments aimed at delaying the inevitable;; the spiritual, serving the contemplation of the soul; and the ritualistic, with detailed traditions surrounding death and mourning. Fear and death don't present themselves as the most ideal topics for a life-affirming book, but Brown manages to overcome negativity in her effort to create happier endings, for the living and the dying. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
"Cathartic"

"Erica Brown is the teacher we all want and the guide we all need. Happier Endings is an elegant portrait of the most powerful part of being human: how we live. From the wisdom of the Bible to the frontier of the Internet, this important book makes the persuasive case that the final years of life are among the most critical – and the most meaningful. Bravo."

"Erica Brown has a unique voice. A woman of faith, she speaks to everyone searching for God and greater meaning. In Happier Endings, Erica explores our attitudes toward death by helping us identify what it means to be alive. She inspires and she reminds us what is most important before we say goodbye."

“Brown has what many people are looking for these days….conviction.”

"Erica Brown is wise and brilliant, with a refreshing sense of humor and an enriching perspective on some of life's great challenges. Readers will find comfort and sustenance in her words."

"Brown addresses this painful subject with eloquence, honesty, and clarity; we can reckon with death, she avers, to change the lives we have now, to live fully and sincerely in the present moment, whatever we feel might happen afterward."

Library Journal
Brown ( Inspired Jewish Leadership ) addresses this painful subject with eloquence, honesty, and clarity; we can reckon with death, she avers, to change the lives we have now, to live fully and sincerely in the present moment, whatever we feel might happen afterward.
VERDICT By no means limited in its appeal to a Jewish readership, this well-presented volume should speak to readers of all spiritualities as well as to those who identify as not spiritual.

(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Reviews
A guidebook to becoming comfortable with death ahead of its actual occurrence. Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgård wrote movingly of humanity's insistence on acknowledging death only peripherally, if at all. We have entire systems of commerce and spirituality designed to make death as abstract as possible, to prevent anyone needing to see a corpse or face their own mortality. The actions that are undertaken prior to death are primarily focused on gathering loose ends for the soon-to-be-deceased, and those who are left behind gain little from the experience except slight insight into the logistics of death. Jewish Federation of Greater Washington scholar-in-residence Brown (Return: Daily Inspiration for the Days of Awe, 2012, etc.) offers reflections gained from people operating outside of that cycle, who have found ways to integrate an understanding of our finite lives into what seems so abstract. The initial chapters address insights into the business of death and how we integrate the idea of an afterlife into everyday life. From there, the author goes deeper into considering those things we automatically, unconsciously look away from--how we view the different choices we encounter in regards to what happens to the body, both before death, with assisted suicide, and after death, with cremation, "natural burials" and other variations. Brown writes expansively about the long, dark night we all must eventually face, sharing stories from her own reflections as well as those of others who chose not to turn away when faced with their own mortalities. In an appendix, the author examines how to write an "ethical will" and what information to include. The answers these people have earned are by no means applicable to every reader, but their questions, and how they wrestle with them, provide a great deal of insight.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781451649239
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 4/15/2014
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 473,483
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Erica Brown is a writer and educator who works as the scholar-in-residence for the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and consults for the Jewish Agency and other Jewish nonprofit organizations. She is the author of Inspired Jewish Leadership, a National Jewish Book Award finalist, and a number of other books. She resides with her husband and four children in Silver Spring, Maryland.

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