(from the back cover)
What happens when the love of your life is about to die? In this compelling story of selfless courage and compassion, Cheryl Eckl chronicles how she and her beloved husband, Stephen, moved beyond merely coping with his imminent death from colon cancer to approaching it as one of life’s great mysteries—a process of profound learning, mutual devotion, and deep personal growth.
Writing with stunning candor and immediacy, Cheryl takes the reader on a journey that plumbs the depths of loss and soars to the heights of the soul’s release—even providing a powerful glimpse into the Other Side of life.
A Beautiful Death – Keeping the Promise of Love offers comfort and hope. And may even change how you view life’s inevitable end.
Flying Crane Press | ISBN: 978-0-9828107-6-7 |Trade paperback | $14.95 | e-book also available
This is the story of how I found Stephen—the love of my life—lost him too early to cancer, and then discovered a way to reconnect with his spirit. My experience has proved to me that the worst thing that ever happened in my life was also the most important. That death, while not easy, can be beautiful. And that love is, indeed, eternal.
In 2004 I was living a dream. I had been married to Stephen for 14 years and life was great. But when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, I suddenly found myself on an unexpected and unwelcome journey with no road map.
At first I did my best to keep him alive, to preserve our life together, to give us more time to love each other. When it became horribly clear that he was not going to make it, I had to change my focus from his survival to easing his pain and helping him through the dying process as authentically as he had lived.
A Beautiful Death is our story of love and loss, of learning and letting go, of my doing absolutely all I was capable of for the one I loved. And of believing that, while nothing could save him, everything I did could contribute to a better end.
I wrote this book to explain to myself what happened so I could bear to go on with my life alone. And I wrote it for you as proof that not only can you handle whatever challenges life sends you, but you can also become more present to life’s joys in the process.
Dying is something we will all do in this life, and it is likely to be difficult; but what matters is who we are being while we’re doing it. That’s what Stephen taught me, and that’s the story I fashioned from the journals I had kept during our 18 years together.
Throughout Stephen’s illness and eventual passing in 2008, I found that reading how other people faced death gave me courage and confidence that I could walk up to that final doorway with my beloved. I hope that reading A Beautiful Death does the same for you.
A Beautiful Death is beautifully created, from the lovely, textural cover that conveys a sense of pressed leaves–wanting to keep something beyond its life cycle, wanting to hang on to a season, to the lyrical writing.
The author is brave in her admissions of the weaker moments in grieving, and fully honest in the moments leading up to and leading from loss. Opening with Thich Nhat Hanh’s quote is a great start, beckoning the readers of spiritual insights to bring their belief minds into this tale, resonant and engaging, a universal truth that brings great comfort to the reader. Nicely chosen, as are all the quotes curated for this book.
The strong opener (“Someone is dying. And life will never be the same.”) cuts right to the truth of loss. It’s really quite simply said aloud like that, but internally, there are so many layers to it. And the author deftly handles those layers in this unfolding of not just Stephen’s death, but the magic of their relationship prior to that moment when life departs, and the careful, difficult steps afterward.
The author creates those beautiful, simple truths so gorgeously here, from the image of her eating a sandwich in the car after the viewing (reader will relate), to the reality that sharing the news of the passing is making it real. These steps after the death, she shows so beautifully here, are also part of helping to create a beautiful death.[The] author paces these glimpses into this time of her life well, with no sense of rush, no glossing over. If the reader has been in her shoes, it’s recognizable that the path of grief is swirled, and that we still have so much we want to express to our departed. The letters are lovely, written with a natural voice so full of emotion, it’s moving.
Very brave moment on page 58–Stephen wants her to go out with her friends, but she says of the change in how they can spend time together, “I feel like a widow,” before the dying person is gone. So unique and brave a sentiment.
The author earns our admiration early, and it just keeps on growing. Beautifully done.
–Judge, 23rd Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards
Gold Medal Winner, Evergreen Award
A brave and soulful account of death…very inspiring. Perfect combination of practicality and spirituality. Plain-spoken and eloquent. —Judge Comments, 2014 Living Now Awards
This is a beautiful book about a beautiful death, truly. With great skill, wisdom, and grace, the author shares a story that is both heart wrenching and heartwarming….She helps the reader fall in love with her, and with her husband, and then allows the story to unfold.…This is a book filled with poetic images, poems, and diary entries, all of which work very well. Sometimes her language leaves the reader swooning, with appreciation for the artful way she has written them and because they pierce right through to your soul.
If I knew anyone going through this experience, I would highly recommend this book—but it’s also a fabulous read for anyone, as we will all face the situation at some point in our lives, and Ms. Eckl paves the way for it to be an enriching experience. I read it through to the end, savoring every word. —Judge Comments, 19th Annual Writers’ Digest Book Awards
Cheryl Eckl writes beautifully about the transformative power of her husband’s final journey—of experiencing life’s deepest joys while facing life’s deepest sorrows. She shares a profound and universal message of hope while chronicling her intensely personal story. —Bev Sloan, President and CEO, The Denver Hospice
Cheryl Eckl’s sensitive and honest book takes us to a place that even the closest of friends are not always privileged to enter: the intimate details of a journey through the death of a beloved soul mate and companion. We all will experience the death of loved ones, and one day, we will also die. Knowing this, how fortunate we are to have people like Cheryl Eckl who are willing to open their hearts to us and help us ready ourselves—guiding us to a place where we can grieve, unashamed of our tears, and be certain that beyond our pain there is a place of deep knowing that love never dies. —Kristine Morris, Spirituality & Health Magazine
Cheryl Eckl is doing the work of a Warrior in the World. A Beautiful Death does far more than simply honor those of our beloveds who have passed; it is a sacred vessel that provides healing, equanimity, acceptance, and rest for all of those who have lost or are losing another. In fact, after exploring Cheryl’s profound work, we find that we have not lost anything at all. —Brandon P. Thompson, Global Faculty, Institute of Transpersonal Psychology (Sofia University)
Provides wise guidance to help each of us face life’s inevitable losses with creative compassion and… elegant grace. —Mark Brady, Ph.D., author, The Wisdom of Listening and Right Listening
A gem of inspiration and wisdom. —Patricia Spadaro, author, Honor Yourself: The Inner Art of Giving and Receiving
Cheryl, I read your wonderful book, A Beautiful Death, before, during and after my late husband’s dying process. I read each part as I was experiencing the phase about which you wrote…when I was ready to move on into that stage. I felt as though someone was holding my hand every step of the way and I am forever grateful that this book found its way into my hands. I have lost two wonderful husbands to cancer, one in 2004 and now again in 2011, and am fighting a metastatic breast cancer diagnosis myself, so know that what you write about is authentic and close to the heart. Bless you and the work that you do.
On this beautiful day I finished your book. I could have read it straight through, as it was that good. But, I wanted to have it go on longer and so I read a bit at a time. What a profound, beautifully written and amazing book. Your writing is so magnificent and heart-felt. I’m inspired by your suffering, growth, transformation and deep spirituality. I’m in such admiration of your ability to write, with such remarkable clarity, your deep love for one another, the tenderness and learning between you, your care-taking, your spiritual path, your overwhelming grief, your fight for life and so much more….I hope this book at least makes its way to all who are either in the death process or losing a loved one. What great work you are doing. (M.N.M.)
Good afternoon, Cheryl. I am presently reading your book A Beautiful Death. I lost my husband a year ago to brain cancer and I was his caregiver. Your book is bringing back so many memories and thoughts and experiences. The tears roll down my face but I am finding it quite therapeutic. My husband’s birthday was Nov 12th too and he had many similar qualities. I am trying to find peace with my future. Thanks for a great book. (H.H.)
Yesterday I was talking to a patient and his partner. I could feel the anguish of a future separation reverberating in their souls as they contemplated the end of one of them. It would be sooner rather than later. And the question of hospice hung in the air. They were conflicted because of the great deep love and devotion they shared for the other. The leaving behind is unbearable. Not the death. I said to them both “death can be and is a beautiful thing.” The words hung in the air.
Today, I called the lady up to tell her I would leave a copy of your book at the nurse’s station for her with the secretary. She said “Dr ______, when you said those words, I had thought of the book. I was meaning to buy it and read it. I heard about the book from a friend. Now that you tell me you are leaving me a copy, I know it was meant to be.”
I left the book with the secretary at the desk. The secretary took one look at it and said that she needed this book. It was the perfect gift for her aunt who is facing a terminal struggle with pancreatic cancer. And so dear Cheryl, know that you are continuing a unique and special mission, your mission, with your Beloved on the other side. And many lives will be changed because you both walked through his beautiful death which is also His beautiful death. (M.M.)
I finished your book yesterday and found it very moving. It truly is a gift that you shared the time you had with Stephen in the physical realm– as well as the ongoing spiritual connection that I am sure you have, which is timeless.
Reading the book also helped me to think ahead and have a good sense of what I may be facing as my husband and I experience this journey together. We have hope for a complete remission, but also understand the reality of the situation and the possibility that it may simply be his time–sooner than later.
I also enjoyed getting to know you and Stephen better through this book. I found it kind of interesting that Stephen’s personality seems so similar to my husband’s in so many ways. And even though you are probably more extroverted than I am, I found so many similarities in our expressions, appreciation for beauty and creativity, and the need for verbal and written expression, etc. Thank you for writing the book. I will certainly recommend it to others. (N.H.)
Today I met another person on the ward who came to visit Mr. F, who said that he knows about your book also. The lady friend who I gave the book to immediately opened it and started reading it in the hallway. She couldn’t put it down. She said she would love to meet you if you came out here to give a talk. She said she “felt cradled in the palm of your hand” as she read the first few pages. Your book will be a great success because it touches peoples’ wounds and allows them to begin the healing journey. (Dr. M.)