Book Review

Dessert First

Dessert First

Preparing for Death While Savoring Life

J. Dana Trent

Chalice Press, Sep 10, 2019,

160 pages

Memoir, Faith related, End of life

Provided by Edelweiss


The cover is so pretty that you don’t expect this book to be about anything scary. But people are afraid of dying for the most part, so this book is all about scary stuff. J. Dana Trent, the author, is a graduate of Duke Divinity School, a professor on religious subjects at Wake Tech Community College, an ordained Baptist minister, former hospital chaplain, and married to a Hindu monk. She is also an award-winning author. Her style is conversational and casual even when discussing specific religious subjects. However, what this book is mainly about is preparing yourself and your loved ones for death and what follows.

Rev. Trent uses personal examples for much of her story, thus the classification as a memoir. She relates how it was to be a newly-minted minister and assigned as a hospital chaplain, working in the ER and IC units with terminally ill patients. She dealt with over 200 people to assist them through this crucial time, end of life and what comes after. Not just dealing with patients who were dying, but dealing with the bereaved families during the process and afterward.

What comes after, you might say. Well, it’s not just grieving. Anyone who has had someone close die understands that there is much that comes after, even when you are not actively grieving. There is the physical toll grieving takes, yes. But with or without a will, there is much to be done. It’s called the estate. As we live our daily lives, paying our bills, saving our money, investing our money, accessing our computers, making purchases, we don’t think about what those left behind must deal with to settle up the things we have. Have you written a will? If you own anything, you should have a will. If you have children, you should have a will. And what about a health-care proxy? Have you chosen one and discussed your end-of-life wishes with her? Do you have a DNR on file with your doctors? Are you an organ donor?

The author uses personal and other events to show us how others have had to deal with things involving end-of-life commitments. She uses her own mother’s dying and death to show us in detail how it can work when you are committed to someone who is dying, but still competent to deal with these issues. She talks about the emotional aspects, but she also covers the legal and various other types of paperwork required to accompany someone through this process.

The back of the book contains loads of information about legal, spiritual, and everyday sources of help available to us as we deal with this time of life either from the dying aspect or tying up the loose ends after the fact for someone we loved.

Yes, the author addresses religion, but as a minister, what else would you expect? However, consider the fact that she is married to a Hindu monk, and you start to understand that she is not pushing religion here. She is pushing support and assistance, and lots of common sense that we really need at a time when sometimes we can’t even think. I recently lost my stepfather to a long-term illness. So this book has appeared at a time in my life when I was especially open to such a book. Having read it though, I realize that this information is something that we need to be addressing before that time. And Rev. Trent totally encourages us to do so. I highly recommend this book to anyone who owns anything, has children, or is involved with older or ill loved ones. This book is a guiding light for that end-of-life situation to help you deal with situations you’ve never faced before.

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