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Planning a Final Journey

June 19, 2004

Thank you for "Taking Life's Final Exit" (June 14), Valerie Reitman's powerful article concerning the "journeys" and other experiences that are expressed by those who are dying. I worked for a housing agency in Hawaii for people with AIDS for eight years and have experienced the death of more than I would like to count. I can attest to the experiences of the dying: their journeys, sighting deceased relatives, etc.

I always found such comfort in knowing that my dying clients were glimpsing the other side, not only for their benefit but for those who are still here. It offers us hope that, at the end of our own journey, what lies ahead will look like a vacation trip where we meet up with our loved ones. That is comforting news.

Daniel Davis

West Hollywood


Reitman's story reminded me of what Confederate Gen. Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson said before his death on May 10, 1863: "Let us cross over the river, and rest under the trees."

Joe Martinez

El Segundo


Having many years' experience as a hospice nurse, assisting thousands in the dying process, there are three things I know for sure: Dying is a journey. The presence of love and forgiveness makes the journey easy. Placing a terminal patient in the intensive-care unit is a bad trip.

Vernette Cooper RN

Signal Hill


Last year, my father-in-law died after a fight with cancer, and we experienced much of what Reitman and her family did. We too were lucky to have the book "Final Gifts" on hand. It was truly a godsend for us and helped us to respond in a more reassuring and caring -- and less frightened -- manner than I believe we would have if we had not read the book. Thanks to Reitman for sharing her personal experience and getting the word out about this wonderful book.

Rebecca O'Shea

Lakewood, Colo.


Thanks for your article on the metaphorical "passages" that some dying people bring up with their relatives. In two weeks, my book "Overcoming the Inheritance Taboo" -- the first book on the psychology of the "final report card" from parents to their children (inheritance wishes) -- will be published by Plume. One section is devoted to how to deal with the strong ambivalence we feel about letting loved ones die when they are ready to go. I'm glad to see that we are beginning to face these issues more directly.

Steven Hendlin

Corona del Mar

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