Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Our Joy of Giving

Yesterday, Becky and I gave 200 copies of Living Consciously, Dying Gracefully: A Journey with Cancer and Beyond to the Breast Cancer Awareness Association (BCAA) of Minnesota, enough so that each participant in the 8th annual Living with Breast Cancer conference can have a copy. (To register for this free October 3, 2009, conference at the Minneapolis Convention Center, click here.) Last year, we also donated copies to BCAA, and responses from recipients indicate that Bill and Diane Manahan’s story benefited them deeply.

Last month, I did something I’ve never done before. Since we were attending the week-long Manahan family reunion in Stowe, Vermont, Becky and I had offered to speak at Hospice Volunteer Services in nearby Middlebury. Bill and Diane’s daughter-in-law Kate Manahan (shown here with Diane), who recently completed hospice volunteer training in Maine, joined us. The hospice Executive Director anticipated 10-15 people would attend, but 30 volunteers and nurses showed up, some of them from hospices an hour away. These women and men were riveted by Diane’s story, crying and laughing right along with the three of us. At the end of our presentation, I said that anyone who bought a book could take a free copy for a hospice, hospital, library, or family of their choice. More books went out the door that afternoon than at any other presentation we’ve given, almost 50 copies.

For the second printing of Living Consciously, Dying Gracefully last year, we ordered 1000 extra copies so that we and Bill would have plenty to give away. We didn’t anticipate how rewarding those gifts would be nor how many cancer conferences, hospices, home-death groups, authors of books about death and dying, public libraries, and random acquaintances we’d connect with. We’ve donated more books than we ever imagined. Diane Manahan, a passionate community activist and philanthropist, would be delighted to see her story reaching so many people, supporting their ability to live more consciously and, when the time come, to die more gracefully.

A few months ago, Becky and I offered a complimentary copy to anyone whose personal end-of-life story is posted on So far, we have received only one story. We thought that the July 2009 New York Times front-page article on home funerals, which mentioned the book (and in the online edition, linked to our website), would spur submissions. Although ranking shot up —Living Consciously, Dying Gracefully became an overnight best-seller in the categories of holistic health, women’s issues, and death and grief—we didn’t receive a single story. The offer is still open. If you have a friend or family good-death story or know someone who does, please contact us:

Similarly, if you know a cancer center, hospice, grief group, or public library that could use a copy of Living Consciously, Dying Gracefully: A Journey with Cancer and Beyond, let us know the address, and we will donate a book in your name. Becky and I appreciate your support for our ongoing joy in sharing our sister-in law Diane Manahan's extraordinary and inspiring story!