Heartwood: The Art of Living with the End in Mind

Flatiron. May 2021. 224p. ISBN 9781250095985. $25.99. MEMOIR
“Something really does happen when we bear witness to the lives of others,” observes Becker in her moving debut memoir. That something, according to Becker, is a seemingly counterintuitive understanding that when humans connect with each other, the notion of our mortality can become easier to bear. This is the lesson Becker imparts as she recounts the many lives and deaths she has witnessed as both a hospice volunteer and interfaith minister. The author celebrates those lives with easy and unadorned prose, and offers honest reflection on how each has strengthened her trust in life and loss. She doesn’t claim that saying goodbye is always easy; indeed, sometimes the things the dying need to hear are the hardest for the living to say, Becker writes, detailing the heartbreaking moment when she told her father it was okay to finally let go. Yet despite the pain of loss, Becker explains, she has come to learn that like the rings that surround the heartwood of a tree, “the dead become the heart of the living and the living nourish the enduring essence of the dead.”
VERDICT An affecting and informative memoir about the lessons we can glean from life as well as death.
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