Book Review: As I Lay Dying: Meditations Upon Returning

Bottom Line: Well worth the read. I recommend it.

I picked up this book out of curiousity after hearing about the death of Father Richard John Neuhaus, Catholic priest, former lutheran pastor, and editor of FIRST THINGS (a very good read–always–well worth the subscription!).  Fr. Richard John Neuhaus’ (RIP) As I Lay Dying: Meditations Upon Returning is not your typical near-death experience account. Yes, Fr. Neuhaus does recount his “I almost died” experience, telling us what he remembers while lying in the hospital with doctors and nurses and friends whispering that he might not make it. The first half of the book is an interesting discussion–almost apologetic– for a Christian view of death. It took a while for my mind to adjust since it was not what I expected, and looking back, I would describe the first part as “slow” (not bad by any means), but this, again, only because of my need to adjust. The latter half of the book is Fr. Neuhaus relating his experience as he remembers it– everything from feeling stomach pain to recovering from several surgeries; and including a “dream” he had where he saw, what he describes and believes to be, angels. Very interesting. Very thought-provoking. Fr. Neuhaus account is better than most I’ve read (not merely because I tend to be more skeptical), but because it’s really not about him, in the end. It’s not a self-promotion. It’s a way of viewing one’s own experience in such a way as to help others see the truth about death and dying. Something we all perhaps need to spend a little more time meditating upon.

(As a side note, Fr. Neuhaus also has an article from FIRST THINGS called “Born Towards Dying” that he published just after his brush with death. It’s a good read too. And quicker, but I still recommend this longer version if you have the time)

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