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When there’s no hope of recovery, how do you recover hope?

When there’s no hope of recovery, how do you recover hope? 

You and I both know that question, I’m guessing.

I wrestle with it regularly as a hospital chaplain. When I’m called to a room after Eddie hears his diagnosis. When the ambulance brings in 5-year-old Bree. When you hear that the treatment isn’t working like it used to. When the Alzheimer’s moves ahead bit by irreversible bit.

As a neurosurgeon, Dr Lee Warren often can offer remarkable hope for recovery. He’s been looking inside brains for years, doing the work that we can’t imagine but are grateful for. But with glioblastoma multiforme, a particular kind of brain tumor, the prognosis is always grim. Eighteen months, on average, from diagnosis to death.

So what do you say to the person in front of you with a growth that can’t be eliminated? What do you say to families who can’t believe there isn’t some kind of cure? And, if you are honest about your faith, what do you say to God?

In I’ve Seen the End of You, Lee takes us inside his head and heart as he wrestles with these questions. It’s as if we get to see in real time how a physician, father, and follower of Jesus tests his faith, his training and his experience against each other. Which do we use to make sense of what is happening in front of us? And, by the end of the book, we are able to see one person’s well-reflected answers to the question of hope in really hard places.

This sense of processing, of journey, is unusual and is true. This is how we live, each of us. But we don’t expect to read about it from someone who should know the answers. And yet, the best of the physicians I work with as I sit with families in difficult situations has this kind of humility. In a gift to us, Lee opens his life to us enough to understand his struggle, and for us to know that we’re not alone in ours.

The reason I included father in that list a few sentences ago is because Lee and Lisa have to wrestle through the grief and struggle for meaning when their son, Mitch, died. Lee brings us into that journey as well.

This isn’t an easy book to read. Which is why it’s important to read this book when we’re not in easy situations.

Chaplains, pastors, healthcare workers, first responders, people who care for other people will all benefit from this book.

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So here’s where in a review, you should talk about having received a copy. My disclosure is a little different. I read an early manuscript of this book a few years ago, shortly after I started being a chaplain. It helped me understand several things medically. It helped me understand the faith struggles of healthcare colleagues. And it pushed me to think beyond the diagnosis I read in the charts into thinking about the needs of the people I sit with.

I’ve been encouraging Lee to push through this process because of how helpful this book has been to me. And in the process it’s gotten better and better.

So yes, I’ve received a copy or two. I’ve not been pressured to make any kind of review. But I am a better chaplain because of this book.

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