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ss triple helix - spring 2001,  Life after Life: readings to comfort the bereaved (Book Review)

Life after Life: readings to comfort the bereaved (Book Review)

Life after Life: readings to comfort the bereaved - Fraser Smith - SPCK 1993 - £6.99 Pb 104pp - ISBN 0 281 04718 9

Fraser Smith is a Methodist minister whose work includes the offer of comfort to those who are dying and bereaved. This anthology of verses and prayers is interspersed with personal comments and poems which, being based on experience, ring true. The deaths touched on range from abortion to accidents to the loss of an elderly partner.

Most of the book is a helpful source of appropriate messages for dying or bereaved patients or friends. Parts of it (especially the selected passages of scripture) could profitably be read to someone who is dying. Other sections come from those useful little cards that are found in church bookshops and can be slipped in with letters of condolence. They are so much more accessible in one volume.

The desolation and despair accompanying all kinds of death are acknowledged. Outrage and anger are wrapped up in some of the 'why' questions. The section on 'Will they be all right?' unreservedly affirms the lively hope of eternal life and final resurrection, with an occasional prayer that the lost loved one might find peace. As the collection is for selective use, any parts which express dubious theology can be left aside as there is so much more to choose from. Those appropriate for the death of a child are, like the event itself, very moving. The writer's analogy of death being comparable to birth should remind us that faith sometimes comes alive at times of loss.

It is obvious that the writer's calling has made him very sensitive to his role as comforter. So should our own. This little book contains much that we will want to keep on both our professional and personal bookshelves, ready to hand in times of need.

Reviewed by
Janet Goodall

Emeritus Consultant Paediatrician, Staffordshire

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