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Living with Dying

By Grace Sheppard,

Darton, Longman & Todd Ltd. 2010,

RRP $36.95

Reviewed by David Ford, a retired Uniting Church minister still active in ministry in Kilcoy.

LIVING WITH Dying is not a ‘how to’ book and author Grace Sheppard acknowledges that people’s experience of living with dying and the mourning after the death of a loved one may vary considerably.

What Ms Sheppard has achieved is to give a wonderful, honest and moving picture of her marriage to David Sheppard, and the love, both human and divine, which helped them cope after the diagnosis of his cancer and when it became clear that it was to be terminal.

Two of Ms Sheppard’s statements stand out: “Love is the best shock absorber of all” and “The notes and letters of support resonated with Christ’s own words, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’. 

“Ms Sheppard uses the terms ‘love’ and ‘friendship’ interchangeably, based on her understanding of Jesus’ words to his disciples in John 15: “I call you servants no longer. I call you friends … Love one another as I have loved you”.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s foreword describes David Sheppard as a gentle giant, caring and compassionate in his work as Bishop of Woolwich and later as Bishop of Liverpool.

He played cricket for England and was later honoured with a peerage.

It is almost impossible to read this book without shedding a quiet tear.

It makes clear the importance of having the conversations about “what if you die?” and “how will you cope when I am gone?”

The account of the moments of David’s death is rightfully very emotive.

What shines from this account is the amazing courage of this couple during the four years of David’s illness, as they face the inevitable reality that affects all of us: that we must each face death in the end.