We all die. Most of us spend the majority of our lives ignoring this uncomfortable truth, but Dr. Larry Librach dedicated his life and his career to helping his patients navigate their final journey. Then, in April 2013, Larry was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer.
Unlike the majority of us, Larry knew the death he wanted. He wanted to die at home, surrounded by his family: his wife of over forty years, his children, and his grandchildren. He did. He was peaceful and calm at the end. Larry proved that the “good death” isn’t a myth. It can be done, and he showed us how.
Ever the teacher, Larry made his last journey a teachable moment on how to die the best death possible, even with a pernicious disease. As hard as it is to guide patients toward dying well, it is far harder to live those precepts day by day as the clock ticks down to one’s own death, but Larry, together with author Phil Dwyer, chronicled his final journey with courage and humour.
Advance praise for Conversations On Dying:
“Conversations on Dying is more than just a compelling read. It is Larry Librach’s last great lesson in living — the importance of dying with dignity. Larry’s compassion and sense of humor are palpable throughout leaving readers, physicians and patients alike, both the wiser and the more aware. It will cause you to look at end of life care and needs, even if you don’t want to.”
Dr. Marla Shapiro, Medical Consultant, CTV News, and author of Life in the Balance: My Journey with Breast Cancer.
“In Conversations On Dying Phil Dwyer guides us through the death of Dr. Larry Librach and infuses new colour and life into issues of patient centric care and palliative medicine. Both Dwyer and Librach show tremendous courage and generosity throughout the book, inviting us to witness their vulnerability and pain in their own examinations of mortality. Dwyer‘s narration is equal parts poetic and practical, using the energy of storytelling to offer concrete direction to patients, family members and providers facing life-and-death decisions in contemporary healthcare.”
Julie Devaney, author of My Leaky Body.
“It seems strange to call this book rejuvenating, since it peers so intently at mortality. But Conversations On Dying is just that. It reminds us that death is as natural a part of life as is birth, and craves our thoughtful attention. The wisdom contained in these pages is irrefutable, and urges a candid approach to death that eases suffering for the person leaving, and for the loved ones left behind.”
Kristen den Hartog, author of The Occupied Garden and And Me Among Them.
“What do we talk about when we talk about dying? Usually anything but. For Phil Dwyer and palliative care pioneer Dr. Larry Librach, however, no aspect of the ultimate taboo subject is off limits. Their conversations would be remarkable if they took place at a safe distance from the edge of the abyss; the fact that they unfold as Dr. Librach is in the process of dying and Dwyer is facing up to his own grief deepens the work immeasurably, resulting in a profoundly moving and necessary book.”
Alissa York, author of Fauna and The Naturalist.
“It might surprise you to discover that a book about death could be so brimming with life. A beautifully hopeful story of love, family and friendship and an undeniable argument for compassion at the end of life. Larry was an amazing character, and I found that I just kept turning pages, fascinated by the mortal developments and by the friendship between two men. I wondered how it could be that a book about death, about mostly just two men talking, could be a page-turner, and yet it was.”
Charlotte Gill, author of Eating Dirt
“The true gift of Conversations on Dying is the bold acceptance that death is a given. No pretence or hope for a miracle cure, just certain death and the months leading up to it. In some ways, it reads as a how-to book: how to foster conversation with your family, how to ask for help, how to reach out in the hard moments with the instinct is to turn away. How to balance the desire to openly accept impending death with your family’s need to hold hope in their hands, just a little longer. How to find a way to make your death as purposeful as your life has been as you prepare to let go.” Read the full review here.
The Lancet Oncology, April 2016