Cover image for As I lay dying : meditations upon returning
As I lay dying : meditations upon returning
Neuhaus, Richard John.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : BasicBooks, [2002]

Physical Description:
168 pages ; 20 cm
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BF1045.N4 N48 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Several years ago, a ruptured tumor almost killed Richard John Neuhaus. During a series of complicated operations, weeks in critical condition, and months in slow recovery, he was brought face to face with his own mortality. As he lay dying and, as it turned out, recovering, he found that despite his faith he had been quite unprepared for the experience. This book traces his efforts to understand his own reactions and those of his friends and family, and explores how we as a culture understand and deal with death.As I Lay Dying testifies that dying is-and is not-part of living. We can and should live our dying. Neuhaus interweaves his own story with thoughtful inquiry, circling through philosophy, psychology, literature, theology, and his own experiences to create provocative meditations that explore the many aspects of dying: the private and public experience, the separation of the soul from the body, grief, surrender, and mourning. The result is a book that shakes the foundations of our being-and yet is oddly and convincingly tranquil.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The opening line of this thoughtful memoir nonchalantly says, "We are born to die" --a statement chilling in its logic and inevitability, but disturbing nonetheless. Neuhaus, editor in chief of First Things and president of the Institute on Religion and Public Life, knows well the spiritual dilemma of the human soul, and he has been diagnosed with cancer and come precariously close to dying himself. His is an unsentimental, unconventional perspective on life's final journey. In particular, he explores what it means to have a "good" death, for, as he points out, life may be uncertain, but death is not. Combining personal anecdotes and reflections culled from philosophy, psychology, literature, and theology, Neuhaus explores the many layers of death and dying with great sensitivity. While lamenting the cruelty and arbitrariness of nature, he reminds us that where there is no death, there can be no life. We are all perennial visitors, living on borrowed time. For its learning and its wisdom, As I Lay Dying has the feel of an instant inspirational mainstay. --June Sawyers

Publisher's Weekly Review

"I almost died." With those three words that form the theme of his latest work, Neuhaus, a Catholic priest and former Lutheran pastor, recalls his brush with death and his thoughts as he was passing through it. Readers in search of sure answers and sweet comfort about the fate that awaits every human being may not be interested in this series of reflections. But those willing to join Neuhaus in pondering the complexities of mortality and the Christian promise of eternal life will emerge all the richer from his sojourn into mystery. Seven years ago, Neuhaus nearly died when a tumor ruptured in his intestines, wreaking havoc on his body and plunging him to the brink of death. As he lay dying in an intensive-care unit, he became keenly aware of his condition, particularly the possibility of his soul separating from his body, and of the reactions of those closest to him. His musings, mercifully free of minutiae from his medical chart, are wholly honest and hardly the stuff of those death-and-dying books that seek to remove all fear from every person's passage out of this world. But they also offer some succor to people of faith. For example, in analyzing his own "near-death experience," in which two seemingly heavenly beings inform him that "everything is ready now," Neuhaus lifts the veil ever so slightly into the life beyond. His report is worth examining by all who have considered their own death or faced that of another. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

The one event that everyone experiences is death always a disturbing thought. Even people who firmly believe in an afterlife and are convinced that they are headed straight for paradise often fear death. We don't even like to use the word: instead of referring to people as having died, we say that they have passed away. Several years ago, Neuhaus, a Catholic priest well known to readers of religious literature and president of the Institute on Religion and Public Life, suffered a ruptured tumor and a series of appalling medical fiascoes, which left him on what seemed to be his deathbed. Miraculously, he recovered, having experienced dying but not death, and his book relates his thoughts about various aspects of life and death. Yes, dear reader, he did have a "near-death experience" but not of the bright-light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel sort. Neuhaus's was much less dramatic and much more credible. Neuhaus is an experienced and gifted writer. His book is not easy to read, but it is certainly worth the effort. Appropriate for public and academic libraries with collections related to theological and philosophical aspects of death. Mary Prokop, Savannah Country Day Preparatory Sch., GA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.