Saturday, April 18, 2009

As I Lay Dying (book review)

From The Movie Snob

As I Lay Dying, by Richard John Neuhaus (2002). Not to get all morbid on you, but dying has been on my mind some of late. There are probably several reasons for that fact. I'm 41, so I'm getting pretty close to middle age. Three of my grandparents died when I was just a child, but my maternal grandmother just passed away a couple of years ago. And then some people I really admire have died even more recently, like William F. Buckley, Jr., and Fr. Richard John Neuhaus himself. Fr. Neuhaus was a Lutheran minister turned Catholic priest, and he edited a wonderful magazine that I have taken for years called First Things. He himself contributed lots of articles to the magazine, plus a mnothly column called "The Public Square," and he always impressed me with both his erudition and his common sense.

Fr. Neuhaus barely survived a large tumor in his colon in the early 1990s, and he alluded to his brush with death in some of his articles. The cancer was discovered to have returned, I believe in late 2008, and he died in early 2009. But several years ago he wrote this little book, which is about half devoted to meditations on death in general and half devoted to Fr. Neuhaus's own near-death experience. It is a thoughtful and interesting book, to be sure, but I suppose I was hoping for some sort of revelation about death and dying that really isn't possible on this side of the grave. I think it was well worth reading.


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