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Watching My Friend Die: The Honest Death of Bob Schwartz (American Catholic Experience) [Paperback]

By Mark Hare (Author)
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Item Number 129944  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   143
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 7.72" Width: 5.5" Height: 0.39"
Weight:   0.39 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Feb 15, 2005
Publisher   ACTA Publications
ISBN  0879462841  
EAN  9780879462840  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
Mark Hare documents the lingering death of his friend Bob to pancreatic cancer in the context of the deeply held spiritual convictions of both men and the popular conception of what constitutes a "good death". Using the Communion of Saints as a lens, Hare observes the end of his frien's earthly life while he and a community blessed by Bob's presence in their lives struggle with their own idealized vision of death.

Publishers Description
Most spiritual memoirs are written by religious professionals. The American Catholic Experience series is an innovative new collection of books exploring the stories of individual Catholics in the United States as they reflect on what it has meant as Catholic laity to live out their faith amidst the joys and challenges of their daily lives?on their jobs, with their families and friends, and in their communities and churches. In Watching My Friend Die, Mark Hare documents the lingering death of his friend, Bob Schwartz, a high school teacher and songwriter, to cancer in the context of the deeply held spiritual convictions of both men.

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More About Mark Hare

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Mark Hare is a columnist for the Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, New York.

Mark Hare currently resides in Rochester, in the state of New York.

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Product Categories
1Books > Subjects > Health, Mind & Body > Death & Grief > Grief & Bereavement   [1161  similar products]
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Catholicism > General   [5549  similar products]
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Catholicism   [888  similar products]

Reviews - What do our customers think?
Nicely written book.  Jul 24, 2005
Mark Hare's "Watching My Friend Die: The Honest Death of Bob Schwartz", is a remarkable little book. Ostensibly, this is a story book of a mere 142 pages, well-told, about the lingering death from pancreatic cancer of a well-loved Rochester, NY teacher and songwriter at the tender age of 49. But it is also a story about the author's candid personal reactions to the circumstances of his friend's death and his introspective musings about death, faith, and life choices. The thoughts and questionings expressed are rightly thought by the author as more than just his own but likely to be experienced by others in similar circumstances, hence worthy of being expressed in a book. Hare's introspection results in some positive realizations for him, like the value of hope, community, and his Catholic faith. Hare is liberal enough to believe that these things may or may not be similarly valued by others, but he makes the case that one can learn a great deal about life choices from the experience of death. The book is part of a series published by ACTA Publications of reflections of lay Catholics on what it means to live out the Catholic faith in the midst of life's joys and challenges.

What initially fascinated the author about the death of Bob Schwartz was how Bob refused to die what some would call "the good death"; that is, an accepting, contemplative, deliberate windup of one's life and relationships with others. It implies a quiet expiration where the dying one tries to make the least demands on his care givers.

There was none of this for Bob Schwartz, an ebullient man who cherished life, lived life fully, and did not want to see it end. He refused to accept the inevitability and immanence of his death and acted to the end as if he would never accept it. This attitude placed increased and extraordinary demands on Bob's family, friends, and care givers. It seemed selfish in a way. It was not a "good death" by conventional understanding.

The author's primary theme focuses on a comparison between the so-called "good death" and Bob's type of death. Bob was true to himself, his history, and his nature. For him to do it any other way would have been personally dishonest. For a man who lived a good, community-oriented, selfless life, to give up on that attitude would be difficult and wrong. Hence, the admiration of Bob's way by those who observed his difficult demise, despite the hardships. Bob's death, like his life, was honest, and despite the difficulties of his death process, his way of dying was probably the best choice for him. In his case, an honest death trumped the virtues of the "good death".

For anyone who has experienced closely the lingering death of a relative or friend, it is no surprise to learn of the availability of a huge number of personal memories and journalistic pieces about the experience. It certainly is one of the most impactful, poignant, challenging, and provocative experiences one can have. Hare's description of the honest death of Bob Schwartz involving the tragic alteration of Bob's expectations and wants, the effects on his family and his large community of friends and associates, the gritty details of his physical decline, and the emotional moments of the entire 22-month process would be, all by itself, a worthwhile read.

Hare is a natural storyteller, being a community columnist for the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle newspaper. He writes several columns per week framing stories based on local news, events, and topics relevant to the paper's readership. Like a knowledgeable and experienced photographer who understands he "makes" pictures rather than merely "takes" pictures, a good story writer like Hare "makes" a story, not just by topic selection, but by the shaping of the story, entwining factual elements with more general themes of community history, morals, and values, and relating a message (or messages) for the readership to consider. He has the ability to express himself in very accessible language written for the "average Joe", and has a very economical writing style, using the fewest words and phrases to express ideas and events. Each word and phrase appears to be carefully weighed and chosen to perform its literary function. There is an "Everyman-like" quality of expression to a community of "Everymen" readers.

But beyond the story of Bob's life and death, there is the parallel story of Hare's participation in the process of Bob's dying and how it affected him. The author is unusually frank about his feelings and thoughts during his participation in Bob's lingering death, a man of his same age. He feels compelled to question his own life and expectations about the "good death". He relates his innermost feelings on a variety of the experiences Bob was undergoing and asking himself over and over again, would he, if he was in Bob's position, make the same choices. If not, what choices and whose choices are better? Hare is intellectually honest enough to know that no one can answer those questions for anyone else, but that each individual has to decide for himself.

He comes to a realization that maintenance of honesty and sincerity is more important than the conventional virtues of a "good death". More importantly, Bob's way of dying helps to illuminate a person's understanding of life. Bob's life and his inability or unwillingness to accept death provides lessons for the living. What matters most is how one chooses to live one's life. And, choice is a paramount concept for all of us. You can say that, in effect, Bob chose his own way of dying - an admirable, honest way of dying. Bob also made good choices in his life, proven by the existence of his supportive family, huge number of friends, and acquaintances who believed he was a great person. Obviously, the author was impressed enough to tell Bob's story in this book.

"Watching My Friend Die" is more than the simply- stated stories of Bob's choice of dying and Hare's reactions to it. Barely noticeable among the story lines are slight threads of humanism and existential themes. Hare describes the very human beliefs, emotions, psychology, and physicality of the dying protaganist and those others involved in the experience. People have complex and conflicting responses to their life experiences and the personal responsibility they have in life outcomes including the death experience. There is, maybe, like in Bob's case at his very end, uncertainty and doubts about even the most important things including the existence and nature of God. One tends to develop enhanced recognition of the personal choices in both life and death available to each of us.

Throughout there are questions. There are also answers, at least for Hare. His answer is faith, primarily expressed in Catholic concepts, but in actuality touching upon spirituality in general. He emphasizes the value of his own personal faith in God and in the "Community of Saints" - that group of people both living and dead who provide support for those faced with tragedy and death.

For such a slender book, this work layers the interesting story of Bob's noble death, a story of the author's learning about himself through his experience of Bob's death, and some universal philosophical themes about life and death. The author states that he writes to make some difference - to try to help others in the community to improve their own lives. This well-written, accessible book seems to be an ideal choice for reading lists for educators teaching about such important topics as death, religion, and existential and humanist philosophies.
Highly recommended, truly inspirational  May 8, 2005
"His story is really about the inner strength and happiness that comes from choosing to spend oneself for others. His story is proof that freedom ennobles us...when we consciously choose to be part of a community much larger than ourselves...Bob Schwartz's story is everyone's story." -- from "Watching My Friend Die."

In this truly insiring book, Mark Hare writes eloquently and sensitively about one man's lingering death and the impact it has on the community of friends he has lovingly nurtured and sustained through his unceasing reaching out in love. Although Hare honestlty chronicles the journey to God of his friend with all its pain and sadness, this is not so much a book about death as it is a celebration of friendship and connectivity and community, a book about life and our pilgrimmage toward God together. The reader will find much to think about in these pages, and much, much hope.
An Energizer's Way of Death  Apr 3, 2005
This new work begs comparison with the wildly popular "Tuesdays with Morrie" written by Mitch Albom about his former professor Morrie Schwartz, an influential doctor of sociology. Bob Schwartz (no relation), the subject of the newly released Watching My Friend Die, was a popular and respected high school teacher. When he was in his 70s, Morrie learned he had Lou Gehrig's disease; Bob was in his late 40s when he heard the diagnosis of terminal cancer. Both men asked writers of their acquaintance to chronicle their dying, which, in each case, spanned about two years.

Aside from some obvious particulars, as the progress of the disease and effect of the illness on family and friends, the similarities end here. "Tuesdays" is based on Mitch and Morrie's discussions about The Meaning of Life. "Watching" is the dying of an energizer who lived for his relationships, who rejected the idea that we can ignore each other, who believed that anything is possible. Experiences of and reflections by the author and others who participated in Bob's last year are integral to the story, and make it all the richer. "In my time with Bob I was seeing more clearly than ever that hope doesn't just fall into your lap. You have to choose it and live accordingly. By sharing his cancer with friends, he did not bring people down. Rather, he gave them hope and the tools to find it within themselves," writes Hare.

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