Discussion Group Questions

Questions and topics offered for group discussion.

  1. What are the implications of the title?
    (Harvey’s career as an attorney, his boat, his unfinished memoir, his resting at death. Beyond those, think of the courtroom metaphor: what case has been made and defended? Think in terms of our lives as making a case for us, and of our right to do things in our own true ways.)
     

  2. Is it reasonable to suggest that patients can minister to their caregivers, and not just the other way around? In what ways does this happen in the book, and how would you see yourself responding in a similar situation?
     

  3. Many of us want to be independent, and we find asking for help to be uncomfortable; we don’t want to inconvenience others.
    How do you feel when others ask for your help, even at inconvenient times? How have you felt when you needed help?
    At those times, are there ways in which others made seeking help easier or harder for you?
    What did you feel when you were satisfied with your caregiving efforts, and what did you feel when you were disappointed?
     

  4. What is your personal experience with serious illness?
    If you, or someone in your family, were struck with disability today, in what ways would you be prepared, and in what ways would you be unprepared?
     

  5. Discuss the ways in which illness and caregiving can bring out both the best and the worst in us.
     

  6. Sharing our stories is a powerful way to build understanding.
    How is sharing our stories different from telling our stories?
    Why does the author suggest that the telling of our own stories is often not helpful to those who are suffering through hard times, especially in the beginning? Do you agree or disagree?
     

  7. What is the difference between suggestions and advice?
    In describing ways to communicate with, help, and comfort those who are going through difficult times, why does the author present suggestions instead of advice?
    How does this fit with the theme of the book?
    (We each must find our own authentic ways.)
    Is there ever a “right” thing to do or say?
     

  8. Think about the difference between optimism and realism, between hope and acceptance. Is it possible to find a healthy balance?
    Where do you find yourself within those differences when you are struggling, and where to you tend to find strength?
     

  9. There are many outside quotes throughout the book, including the beginnings of each part and chapter. Choose a favorite quote and think about why it spoke especially to you.
     

  10. Think about gratitude. Would you describe it as a feeling or a choice?
    A natural result of what happens to us or an intentional practice?
    How about compassion? A feeling or a choice? A result or a practice?
     

  11. Think about our responses to the death of a loved one. Is grief something from which we can recover, move on, something to get past?
    Although our ways of grieving are uniquely individual, are there commonalities?
    What are some suggestions for adjusting to new paths of life following the death of someone we love?
    What do we most appreciate from others during those first difficult months and even years?
     

  12. As a result of reading this book, is there anything you will change in your own future responses to illness and death… among friends?
    In your own life?

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