Author Charles Garfield Introduces Life’s Last Gift

Charles Garfield

Giving and receiving peace when a loved one is dying

For the past forty-three years, Charles Garfield, PhD has spent time at the bedsides of dying people, as well as caring for those who love them.

Garfield shares that throughout those years, it amazed him how few user-friendly resources were available to help people during what is probably life’s most difficult period (a loved one’s dying time.)

Over 650,000 people in the US die each year, many of them at home, and over 90 percent of Americans believe it is the family’s responsibility to care for their dying loved ones—and yet, there are so few trustworthy resources.

“That’s why I wrote Life’s Last Gift,” said Garfield. “The book is a tribute to the hundreds of people I’ve worked with at Shanti project, an organization I founded about four decades ago that cares for people with AIDS, cancer, and other life-challenging conditions; to people I’ve worked with at the Cancer Research Institute at the University of California Medical School in San Francisco; but especially to my father, mother, and closest friend—each of whom I cared for during their dying time.”

Who is the book for?

Life’s Last Gift is for anyone providing care to someone at the end of life, but especially for family members and friends. It is also for health professionals and volunteers who wish to have a trustworthy resource they can offer to loved ones of terminally ill patients. 

What makes this book unique?

“I worked to provide people with an informative, well-written book that actually delivers on its promise to provide peace on the journey at the end of life,” said Garfield.

The book is based on nine commitments.

“First, listening from the heart,” said Garfield. “Then speaking from the heart, acting from the heart, and caring for people with empathy—imaginatively getting inside the skin of people who are dying so you understand what’s going on. You learn that small things can mean a lot. Small things like showing up, paying attention, caring deeply.”

One commitment that Garfield is particularly fond of is listening to people’s stories. “Their stories are their legacy,” he said.

People who are dying often do a life review, and they remember the most important things. They remember people who they loved and who loved them, and work they were proud of.

“Lastly, the notion that love heals—it doesn’t always cure—but love can heal us emotionally, interpersonally, and spiritually, even if it doesn’t heal us physically,” said Garfield.

These commitments are based on the realization that the experience of being cared for can be more important to the dying person than anything you do or say. The experience of being cared for can matter most.

“In the words of the great writer James Baldwin, ‘The moment that we cease to hold each other, the moment that we break faith with one another, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out,’” said Garfield. “My hope is that Life’s Last Gift can help you prevent the light from going out during the dying time of someone you love.”

After four decades of training volunteers to sit at the bedsides of the dying, psychologist and Shanti founder Charles Garfield created an essential guide, Life’s Last Gift for friends and families who want to offer comfort and ease their loved ones’ final days.

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