I was afraid of dying so I became a hospice chaplain. I figured if I hung around with Death, made friends with him (at a safe distance), I’d get used to him and he wouldn’t be so scary. So, for the past nine years I have had the privilege to journey with over 1,000 folks who have gone on to the other side. I’ve seen first-hand how we all live in a world where no one escapes without experiencing pain, suffering and death. The thought that maybe, just maybe, suffering could be good for me wasn’t even on my radar screen. But this was before the dying taught me about living.
What the Dying Have Taught Me about Living: The Awful Amazing Grace of God is a 59,000 word collection of real life stories recounting my interactions with terminal patients. The lessons taught by dying patients around the themes of forgiveness, acceptance, compassion, meaning, gratitude, humility, mindfulness, trust, peace, and humor offer the reader insights into living with a deeper wisdom and compassion. The book is also the story of my journey from a fundamentalist faith to an inclusive worldview of acceptance for all. Written in a similar vein as the bestsellers Tattoos on the Heart and Blue Like Jazz, What the Dying Have Taught Me about Living is a book of narrative snapshots inviting the reader to reflect on life, and hopefully, become less afraid of death.
Fred Grewe’s What the Dying Have Taught Me About Living: The Awful Amazing Grace of God offers a powerful witness to the rawest of human experiences — death and loss. It is a great gift to those who minister to the dying and bereaved and a testament to the wondrous human ability to grow even in grief and loss. –Kenneth J. Doka, PhD, MDiv, Senior Consultant, The Hospice Foundation of America, Professor, The College of New Rochelle
A moving and inspiring book. As one reads the stories in this little book, one can’t help but laugh and cry with the families. After reading What the Dying Have Taught Me About Living, one comes away with a feeling that life and death are like two wings on which we all make this mysterious journey called life. Fred makes us think about life from death’s perspective, a refreshingly new approach in our culture. –Prakash Chenjeri, philosophy professor Southern Oregon University
At its core this is a book of stories, with a parade of colorful, vividly realized characters held gently up to view in their moments of greatest vulnerability, and greatest strength. –David Barnard, Miles J. Edwards Chair in Professionalism and Comfort Care, Center for Ethics in Health Care, Assistant Vice Provost for Interprofessional Education, Oregon Health & Science University
Chaplain Fred Grewe is a wise, kind guide to life, as he shares with the rest of us what the dying have taught him about living. His stories are honest, often vulnerable and sometimes laugh out loud funny, and he offers a precious witness to the miracle of human life. — Pamela Shepherd, retired pastor, First Congregational United Church of Christ, Ashland Oregon
“Fred invites caregivers to find anew their own pastoral identities in sharing his bittersweet stories of learning to listen faithfully to the dying in hospital and hospice settings. Without intending it, Grewe offers a model for discovering through reflections on larger spiritual stories the ‘awful grace’ that emerges out of the peculiar messiness and woundedness, vulnerability and openness, humility and gratitude which form every caregiver.” – The Rev. Dr. Scott K Davis, Pastor, Brickerville United Lutheran Church; Board Certified Chaplain, retired
Fred Grewe’s spellbinding spiritual autobiography cracks open powerful stories of suffering and death to expose their seeds of grace. In the soil of theology and psychology and using an implement of salvific wit, he tills these experiences until they grow into a philosophy of life. Professionals and laypersons alike will find resources and rewards in this trenchant page-turner. –Jim Lawrence, Pacific School of Religion
sample chapter: Petey’s Lament