Thursday, August 19, 2010

Welcome - Pre-Death Club Members

This is a place for you to find out more regarding the book, A Little Guide for Your Last Days, of course. But also this is a site for you to find other useful references to deepen your awareness of the absolute importance of dying a holy death.

Author and friend, Dawn Eden, posted this on Little Guide on her now defunct blog (in the photo, she's the pretty one on the left). It contains the first chapter (with permission).

A Little Guide for Your Last Days is the book that everyone knows he or she should read, but doesn’t want to read. We spend a great deal of time, effort, money, and psychic energy distracting ourselves from the one most overwhelming fact of our lives:
The fact that there will come a time when you and I with all our charms, characteristics, strengths, weaknesses, growing edges, and assets simply will not be here. Period.
A Little Guide for Your Last Days is a response to what happened to me a year ago April when I went from being a runner, weight-trainer, and middle schoolteacher to a cancer patient over the period of a week’s time.

I am grateful for medical technology and all the modern gadgets that were used to make it possible to still be here. But, like Lazarus, who was raised from the dead by Our Lord, it is a "deferred payment plan.” And each one of us must one day – whether we like it or not - “pay” the Piper.

A few Catholic writers have written nice things to say about Little Guide (below): Dawn Eden, Mark Shea, Fr Dwight Longenecker,
Amy Welborn, Joseph Pearce, and others.

If you want to stop avoiding thinking about an incredibly important part of your existence, you can purchase your copy at Amazon, Bridegroom Press, or at a Catholic bookstore.

Feel free to leave a question or comment. God bless you.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Health Update & New Review of Little Guide

Two weeks and two days ago, my diaphragm and liver were re-sectioned and gall bladder removed under the skillful surgical care provided at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Maryland. General chemotherapy will begin before the end of July. Many thanks for all prayers! I am walking each morning as I pray.

Just this week, the July/August issue of the Saint Austin Review (StAR) gave the following review of Little Guide. A genuine word of thanks to Joseph Pearce, editor, and Geneva Leonard, reviewer:

A Little Guide for Your Last Days
By Jeffry Hendrix
Bridegroom Press, 2009
108 pp., $19.95
ISBN 978-1-60104-024-4
Reviewed by Geneva Leonard

In an age where death and questions about mortality are conveniently thrust aside, Jeffry Hendrix's A Little Guide for Your Last Days is a beacon of light for those who have discovered that they are on death's imminent waiting list. Writing the book while facing his own mortal- ity in the form of kidney cancer, Mr. Hendrix's moving words strike at the core of our being, for what more important question in life do we face than "why am I here?" This book is an answer to that one, big question, among others, and it is a wake up call for all Christians to get our lives in order, both spiritually and practically, before we die.

Jeffry Hendrix was a Protestant pastor for twenty years before he realized that life's most difficult questions found their answers within the teachings of the Catholic Church. His con- version and subsequent life and writings were influenced by the likes of J. R. R. Tolkien, Walker Percy, G. K. Chesterton, and Joseph Pearce, to name a few. Mr. Hendrix writes this book as an unabashedly Catholic convert, proclaiming the truths of the Catholic faith while reminding his readers that Christ, the ultimate sympathizer, is there for all who call on Him. Besides helping answer our biggest questions regarding our final end, or telos, Mr. Hendrix also gives practical insight into the pragmatic issues we must face before we die. Most people seek distrac- tion from their last end, but Mr. Hendrix unequivocally focuses our attentions on those things which really do matter in life. Addressing issues such as sentimentalism, egoism, and the financial struggles left to many grieving families, Mr. Hendrix clearly shows us how not to act when preparing for death. However, he does not stop there; one of Mr. Hendrix's best recommendations to those putting their affairs in order is to go on a retreat where your daily schedule is out of your hands. For, as he so poignantly puts it, "who do you think is going to need to do the bending and adjusting to get used to Heaven-the vast multitude of angelic beings all enjoying the Beatific Vision? Or you?"

A Little Guide for Your Last Days propels the reader forward with its quick witted phrases and sometimes not so gentle urgings onward. The writing is not interminable or unnecessarily verbose; it is as all our lives should be: to the point. The book itself is short, a subtle reminder of how brief our own time is on this earth, and though the prose is quick and easy to read, the ideas which are introduced will worm their way into the mind, almost making time slow down for the reader. Much like the main character in Ambrose Bierce's short story "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge", I found myself seeming- ly lost in time, my own view of mortality attempting to touch the eternal, while contemplating the simple, and yet profound, thoughts put forward by Mr. Hendrix. Though you may have searched your whole life for answers to "the big question", this compelling guide gives answers both in abundance and in rapid succession.

Anyone who knows or has known someone facing a terminal illness will benefit from this book's raw emotion and gentle encouragement. Reading this guide during the final stages of my grandmother's cancer gave me a unique insight into what she was going through emotionally and spiritually. I was able to more deeply connect with her because of the spiritual journey I myself went through while reading this book, and I was able to accept her death with much more grace because Mr. Hendrix leads each reader to the conclusion that death is only our final end on this earth. Our true end will be determined by how we live our lives, and especially the time we spend preparing for that final journey.

Though this book was written as a handbook for those members of the "pre-death club", A Little Guide for Your Last Days is a clarion call to all Christians to take up their crosses daily with a generous spirit and a Marian "fiat". It reveals what we must do to gain eternal life and how to live one's life in a continual state of grace, even if death is not knocking at the door quite yet. This guide reminds us that if we are willing to die to ourselves daily for the sake of Christ crucified, then there is no need to fear the final end toward which we are all called.

Geneva Leonard resides in Texas with her husband and baby daughter. She loves the Catholic Church, her family, cooking, and reading.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Little Guide - A Review & Synopsis

William Doino, Jr. recently review Little Guide for The Weekly Standard:

Exit Strategy

Preparing for death as a way of life.

May 17, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 33, The Weekly Standard
A Little Guide for Your Last Days
by Jeffry Hendrix
Bridegroom, 108 pp., $19.95

Death comes calling for us all, though few people are ever actually prepared for it. Two years ago Jeffry Hendrix, a Methodist minister turned Roman Catholic, received the news we all dread: a diagnosis of terminal illness. In his case, it was kidney cancer, leading to surgery and chemotherapy.

The illness dramatically changed not just Hendrix’s day-to-day activities, but his whole outlook. A Little Guide for Your Last Days was written in response to his circumstances, and is a meditation about mortality. Though brief, it is a book of unusual power; and while distinctly Catholic, its themes remain universal. Its opening lines are stark and direct:

If you have been graced with the certainty of your own death due, perhaps, to a doctor’s diagnosis of a terminal disease, you are already ahead of the great majority of human beings alive on earth. You know something from which millions upon millions of persons spend millions upon millions of dollars trying to distract themselves. In our day of militant, technologically-enhanced popular culture—and as never before in the history of the species homo sapiens—people want to keep as far as possible from the awareness of their own mortality.

It was not always so, writes Hendrix. Death used to be at the forefront of man’s consciousness. Memento mori, the Latin phrase meaning “remember you must die,” was woven into our cultural fabric, as was the supernatural awareness of our dependency: “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” Today, we still interest ourselves in death—only because we must, as it intrudes upon us every day—but it is a paradoxical interest, one that keeps its distance and employs protective shields. As Hendrix notes, “Mortality, being so hidden and kept from the general awareness,” makes death a thing of fascination—“as long as it is someone else who is being so fascinating.” Speaking or thinking about death in the first person is disquieting, out of step with the daily march of life.

This brief volume examines the flight from mortality, what Ernest Becker described as our collective “denial of death.” Hendrix finds the great mass of individuals bouncing upon the surface of life, never inquiring about the fate that awaits them. Their attitude is understandable: No one wants to be told when the clock strikes midnight, and the apprehension death can provoke in anyone can be intense. Hendrix doesn’t hold back describing his own fears.

In searching for answers, however, Hendrix recounts how he came to find them in Catholicism. Through the sacraments, he has received peace and strength; he writes about the loving presence of God, the redemptive power of suffering, and the comfort prayer and confession bring. It is a moving narrative, even as he knows that many readers will not share his beliefs. He doesn’t argue with them: This is not a work of apologetics but a series of gentle observations, for anyone open to the transcendent.

Indeed, there is a psychological depth here that rewards a second reading. Anyone who has ever lost a close relative or friend knows what the immediate days and weeks afterward are like, with feelings of intense pain, isolation, disbelief, and an acute awareness of the fragility of life. Hendrix underwent a similar experience after his diagnosis, except that in his case it was because he was losing himself and his attachments to this world. He has emerged with a renewed appreciation for the gifts he once took for granted—family, friends, faith, and (shortened) life—for even as his “outer nature is wasting away” his soul is “being renewed every day.”

Self-gratification is more appealing than gratitude, and few people want to stop and address the consequential questions Hendrix asks: “Why am I still here, and what am I supposed to do with the time I still have left?” One thing the terminal should not do, he writes, is engage in frenetic activities as if nothing were wrong; such escapism only breeds disappointment and a realization that nothing has changed. Acting responsibly, by making sure you don’t leave behind unnecessary burdens to loved ones, is encouraged; above all, people facing death should never succumb to resentment, or blame others for not understanding their circumstances.

Mortality is a delicate subject, and easy to treat superficially. A Little Guide avoids such pitfalls by staying centered and conveying Christianity’s hope. It is also an eloquent plea to break through our carnival culture, and a reminder that we are all, inescapably, living out our last days—even if we don’t yet know the number of them.