A Brief Review of
Walking Home Together:
Spiritual Guidance & Practical Advice for the End of Life
Paperback: 23rd Publications, 2016
Buy now: [ Amazon ]
Reviewed by C. Christopher Smith
Facing our own death, or that of a loved one, can stir up much anxiety in us. When we inevitably must take this journey, it is wonderful to have a friend who knows what to expect and can walk this journey with us. Michael Mercer, a hospice chaplain here in Indianapolis, has walked this road with many people, and captures much of his own wisdom about this journey in the new book Walking Home Together.
One would expect a book about death to be a bit on the gloomy side, and although he is frank about the challenges that lie ahead, Mercer is a masterful storyteller and gracefully works to remove unnecessary fear and anxiety from the dying process. The chapters of this book progress from the time of finding out that death is imminent to the time of death. Along the way he asks insightful questions that orient our attention away for the imminent weight of death: for instance, how can I accept and not give up? Or, how can I experience God’s presence in my final season of life? (Short answer: look for God’s love and presence in those who most closely surround you) Or, how can I make my death a gift to others? These questions remind us that despite the looming reality of death, we still can (and should) provide light and life to those around us.
Walking Home Together is a book that I will share with others when they have a friend or family member who is approaching death. It is also a book that I will undoubtedly re-read as I walk with others in the final leg of life, so that I might be able to walk kindly and faithfully with them. Michael Mercer draws upon his deep well of experience as a hospice chaplain to help us make this slow and painful journey with grace and courage — examining not only the spiritual and relational dynamics, but also practical matters that will need to be addressed along the way. I would recommend reading this book initially when you are not yet faced with the imminency of death, in order to recognize the contours of the journey before we must set out on it, and then also re-reading it when death becomes imminent.
Certainly, there are a flood of books on death and dying, but few that bring both rich practical wisdom and theologically keen faith to shed light on this journey, as we must take it in the twenty-first century.