Book

Phe and the Work of Death

When we die, do we die alone? Even when surrounded by loved ones, the dying person enters into an aloneness, a realm where the living cannot reach. But is it possible that other beings surround us as we enter and then depart the final earthly stage? Author Mary Demmler, an Episcopal priest, allows us to hear the voice of such a being, a companion and guide during the very last stage of life in a variety of human beings undergoing the ultimate separation. We too hear Phe’s voice, as we  visit the dying with her, feeling the hope of the presences, and knowing their compassion and awareness of centuries-long experience with dying. In the process we witness changes even in the beings themselves. This is a comforting book, filled with love and with hope.

“Phe and the Work of Death defies easy categorization or summary. One has to experience it for oneself: the gentle weaving of imagination and thoughtful characterization that leads to a new understanding of and hope for our own deaths and the deaths of those we love. I wept tears of gratitude when I read this. Just as Phe was companion to the men, women, and children in this book, she is now companion to me when life is hard or tragic. That’s how real she becomes in Mary Demmler’s hands.”

The Rev. Patricia Boswell, Former Hospice Chaplain

“Perhaps there is nothing scarier than imagining what happens at death, and we have wrestled with our own mortality for as long as we have walked this earth.  We are blessed to have some among us who show how love, peace, and hope lighten the path we all walk.  Mary Demmler is one of these truth-tellers, and the story she offers pulls back the curtain so we can catch a glimpse of the Spirit at work.”

The Rev. Dr. Stuart Higginbotham, rector of Grace Episcopal Church in Gainesville, Georgia, and author of The Heart of a Calling: The Practice of Christian Mindfulness in Congregational Ministry

“Mary Demmler has given form and imagination to the spiritual and mysterious process of dying. Her words have a lovely and haunting way of working themselves into one’s consciousness to offer assurance and comfort to the dying, their loved ones, and their caregivers.”

The Rev. Terry Moore-Painter, Former Oncology Chaplain, Cone Health

Phe and the Work of Death is a moving collection of stories that offer a glimpse into the often-painful reality that is death. The theme is simple and straightforward, but the details are complex and emotionally engaging, and as the spouse of a clergyman, I found great comfort in the stories. This collection is an ode to healthcare workers, and it is worthy of extra attention. To be seen by an author and written into a story in such an honest way felt like a personal honor. I love this book, and I can’t wait to share copies with my nurse buddies!

Neile Bruce Chambers BSN RN