Alumnus’ Book Reveals Emotions, Lessons from the Dying
Eric Lindner, B.B.A. ’81, has never been a doctor, nurse or a social worker — but he has provided care and support to dying strangers. In his book, “Hospice Voices: Lessons for Living at the End of Life,” the former George Washington University Board of Trustees member recounts the stories of his relationships with seven, colorful patients whom he served while he was a hospice volunteer.
His patients’ words help him to “navigate some choppiness in my own life,” writes Mr. Lindner in the opening sentences of his book. “It also just so happens that they’re the most fascinating people I’ve ever met.”
On Friday afternoon the university hosted a reception for Mr. Lindner in the Elliott School of International Affairs’ City View Room to celebrate the book’s Oct. 12 release, which coincided with World Hospice Day.
In addition to Mr. Lindner’s friends and family, President Steven Knapp and Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., B.A. ’77, attended the reception.
Sen. Warner spoke candidly about his hope for the country to begin to have thoughtful and reflective “adult conversations” about end-of-life issues.
"Everyone here has a different story. My personal story is that my mom had advanced Alzheimer’s for 12 years. And the last 10 years of her life, she didn’t speak,” Sen. Warner said. “In a rational world, America would join every other advanced nation in recognizing that this is a part of life’s journey that we all will partake in.”
Sen. Warner commended his friend, Mr. Lindner, for opening up a dialogue about hospice care. He told those at the reception that he “unreservedly” recommends the book.
“I’d gone through laughing and crying through those first couple of chapters in a way that really, incredibly touched me,” Sen. Warner said. “Read the book. It is worthy of a read.”
Mr. Lindner is donating all of the book profits to organizations committed to improving the lives of hospice patients and their families, including the GW Institute for Spirituality and Health (GWish), which was established in 2001. The mission of GWish is to advance the understanding of the spiritual needs of patients, families and healthcare professionals, said Vincent A. Chiappinelli, the associate dean of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences.
“GWish wants to influence the health care system in the U.S. by seeking to establish a more compassionate and integrated system of care. And certainly Eric Lindner’s experience with hospice resonates with this goal,” he said.
Mr. Lindner called spirituality the most important dimension of hospice care, and he commended GW and Dr. Knapp for the institute’s work.
The “spiritual dimension” is not about any particular religious denomination or faith tradition, Mr. Lindner said.
“It’s not the nature of faith; it is the issue of faith and allowing the opportunity for people to discuss it,” he said. “It is a very helpful process.”