Marrow


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The author includes a summation of other books on her bookshelf which actually winds up to be a great summary of this book: ...books that place an arm around your shoulder and in a comforting voice say, "Look, I've walked a few steps ahead of you, and I see what's around the bend, and even though you are going to stumble into the same wilderness that I have just scratched my way through, if you take a few minutes, my words may help you avoid some of those same traps and thickets."

Short chapters kept me motivated to move through this book at a quick pace.  I also got the Book on CD to supplement my reading.  I wasn't really thrilled about this book selection but it wound up to be better than I thought.  Actually, it was almost TOO good.  Every word is a gem and every sentence a treasure.  But it was often too much to absorb.  I had to re-read several parts for fear that I didn't get all the nuggets.  This book chronicles the 8-year journey of Liz, the second born of four girls, to help her next youngest sister, Maggie, through cancer, including donating her marrow.

We all know someone who could relate to or learn something from this book.  Several times I thought about recommending it to one of my friends.  Thankfully I made it to page 180 before I actually did.  Lesser gives some advice, from the experience of Maggie the patient, about unsolicited advice.  These are the learnings I will take away from this book:  Don't offer solutions without asking if they want to hear them.  (p. 180)  Remember "strength to strength".  Don't contradict the patient.  If they say they are scared, go in that tunnel with them.  Don't tell them to be brave but invite them to tell you about their fear. (p. 183)

In the end though, I was a little disappointed.  Not because Maggie dies at the end, that was revealed early on.  But because after all the talk of living a more authentic life I think the book fell short of actually explaining how to do that.  For example, not just going along with things to make other people happy or because it's what you think they want to hear.  Such as, my husband likes Whataburger.  So, when we need to grab a quick burger, he says, "What about Whataburger?" and I say, "Sure."  Truth be told - I don't like Whataburger.  I'd much rather have McDonald's.  But, he doesn't like McDonald's.  I'd much rather eat my less-than-favorite Whataburger in peace than eat my favorite McDonald's but hear him complain.  So I'm not authentic, I say Whataburger is fine.  I don't understand how to be authentic in even those small things, much less in all the big things, and still stay married.  But surely the advice of this book is not to all get divorced just so we can be true to ourselves.

On a scale of 1 - 5 (5 being a lot of examples/instances):

Sex:  0

Religion:  2

Gruesome:  1

Suspense:  0

Morality:  5

Traditional:  4

Sex - I don't recall any.  It's just not that type of book.

Religion - A few weeks after reading this book I can't recall any religion but I feel like there must have been some.  I think it was more along the lines of new age spiritualism.  Not near as religious as a book on death could have been.

Gruesome - a couple of medical procedures are referenced.

Suspense - from the beginning we are told that the patient will die at the end

Morality -  a woman puts her life on hold and does everything to support her sister through a terminal illness

Traditional - two of the sisters are divorced and remarried.

Parts of this book hit home for me.  I'm sure other parts will hit home for other readers.  There was a time recently when I thought I was not going to live past a certain date.  I spent a lot of time thinking about death and trying to prepare.  The thing that most upset me was leaving my children.  Maggie expressed wanting more time with her children in her Field Note on p. 58.

Part 5 was the saddest part.  Definitely difficult to read while substitute teaching - didn't want the students to see me cry.

I'm still not sure, after reading the book, that I know how to be true to myself.  "For most of us, the voice of 'thine own self' gets harder and harder to hear because other voices take over." (p. 87)  I could say, what I want is peace in my house.  So, to get that peace, I lose myself and give in to other people's wants.  I could identify with many areas that would be great to implement, but in the end I'm just not sure how.  Like all the "shoulds and shouldn'ts" that were put on us by our parents. (p. 95)  Or, in my case, I thought of all the "shoulds and shouldn'ts" I put on my own child.  I could look back in my life and understand why some people treated me as they did, supposing they were threatened because "their own genuineness is so blocked". (p. 97)

Discussion Questions

Can you be "true to [your]self and ... truly connected to the ones [you] love?" (jacket)

What "conditions of worth" do you carry from your childhood?  What are you passing on to your kids?

Have you ever known anyone who gave or received a transplant?  Tell their story.

Read the Rumi poem and discuss. (p. 119)

Do you agree with Socrates, "the un-examined life is not worth living" or Maggie, it's a "self-indulgent waste of time." (p. 123)

Lesser asked herself (p. 141) "Do I have to clear up everything with everyone?"  What issues are better left unexpressed?

According to Tolle's explanation (p. 164) how big is your ego?
    The ego wants to be right all the time.  And it loves conflict with others.  It needs enemies because it defines itself through emphasizing others as different.  Nations do it, religions do it, people do it.

"Inside the nucleus of each of your cells there's ... a complete set of your DNA."  (p. 185)  After a marrow donation, doesn't that mess up genetic testing, especially for criminal-type situations.  What if you donate to a stranger and then they commit a crime and leave DNA evidence?

Is there a consequence to saying, "...don't dim your light; don't live small.  You're not damaged goods; you don't need to be fixed.  Just be who you are - 'cause that's what the people who really matter want anyway." (p. 191)

What are some ways you can live in the NOW while waiting, per Tolle's advice? (p. 206)

What poems have spoken to you or stuck in your memory as the author held on to the Rumi poem? (p. 224)

Based on Terence McKennas views on worry, when would it be okay to worry? (p. 249)

Discuss "death with dignity".

How do you explain the psychic knowing about Bob and needing more snow and the Girls?

Maggie chose one o'clock for people to arrive on her death day.  Liz thought it would be the time of death.  What time would you choose?

Look at a chakra chart and discuss this method of healing.

Theme Ideas

Serve marrow dishes.
Make a braided craft. (p. 4)
Place copies of the "New Yorker" magazine and "Science and Health" on the coffee table. (pgs. 24-25)  Also the book Elizabeth read, "Essential Cell Biology" and maybe a 3-D model of human anatomy.
Give your guests a token of Elpis. (p. 54)
Do a death meditation. (p. 140)
Try to see how long you can go without moving your hands or arms. (p. 148)
Play "Billie Jean" by Michael Jackson (and dance). (p. 171)
Make bookmarks with prayer from Thich Nhat Hanh. (p. 199)
Meditate.  Try the ocean's edge example. (p. 263 - 264)
Serve coffee with heavy cream and maple syrup (or ice cream) for Maggie. (p. 303)

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