A Review of Good Dying

In her book, Blossoming, Sara Kirschenbaum has chronicled her father’s eight years of declining health and how the family used creativity and love to ease the journey. Coffee with ice cream and shape dancing in the mornings, wonderful masks in the hospital, and a wedding in wheelchairs in the park are only a few of the joyful moments that Sara captured in her photographs, along with a realistic look at the challenges her father faced.

Rebecca Eddy had the good fortune of being hired in October 2008 by Susan Weil and Bernard (Bernie) Kirschenbaum — experiencing firsthand the loving relationship between Sue and Bernie and their family. Rebecca writes:

In our work with aging adults, many clients have passed away, and we have witnessed the caring with which their families and/or friends have helped to make the dying process gentler. It is a precious experience for each of us.

Sara Kirschenbaum’s documenting in Blossoming, through photos and narrative, may help others identify ways in which they can bring joy into a sad and often painful journey. The strain on family, friends and paid caregivers can be great, but Sara demonstrates in Blossoming how, with creativity, the burden can be lessened.

The book also brought back my own memories. When my mother died at the age of 63 from colon cancer, I was encouraged to write about “good dying,” but the book never happened and it would not have had many photos (and certainly not of the quality of Sara’s) if it had. After her third surgery, when chemotherapy was recommended, my mom opted for a strict macrobiotic diet. She was able to live for seven more months on her own terms and the whole family went macrobiotic in support. The adults all participated in family therapy to help us deal with the changes going on in our lives.

In the last week of Mom’s life, we camped out at our parents’ home caring for her and supporting our dad. Friends and family came from all over to see Mom the weekend before she died. Small groups would visit with her, praying and singing hymns, and telling stories. She smiled gently, responded to a squeezed hand, and absorbed the love. The young grandchildren would wander in and ask odd questions or climb onto the bed and give her a hug. When she died, the kids put gifts on her chest which were eventually buried with their grandmother.

Each family’s approach to “good dying” will depend on circumstances and personalities.

Blossoming, the story of Bernie and Sue and their family and supportive team, with intimate photos and Sara’s narrative is an inspiring book. Sara shares honestly the hardships of growing up with Bernie, the gentle reconciliation that came in the eight years of Bernie’s dying, and the revelations of what may have caused Bernie’s psychological distress. Hopefully, others, in reading Blossoming, will be equally touched and inspired by it.

Click here to purchase Blossoming

Rebecca Schein Gideon Y. Schein,
Rebecca R. Eddy
Gideon Y. Schein


Eddy & Schein
212. 987.1427


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