Mother's book is message of hope
By Matt Abbott
Pamela Yates has been through quite a lot in the last 12 years. The New York native, raised by a Roman Catholic father and a Jewish mother, lost her 27-year-old son, Sean Reynolds, to cancer in 1994.
Reynolds' death was preceded by seizures, which, according to two former hospice nurses, could have been prevented.
"I believe in the higher concept of hospice care, but the hospice industry in this country is broken," said Yates (via e-mail). "The families of hospice patients have no standing under the law. When the patient dies, there is no incentive or pressure to keep the hospice system doing good works."
(Yates is a friend of Ron Panzer, founder and president of Hospice Patients Alliance.)
She has written a book about the experience -- "The Gift of More: Lessons on Faith and Love From a Life Cut Short," whose website is www.thegiftofmore.com.
The book, which comedian Jay Leno has called "[a] truly inspiring story that really helps to put your priorities in order," "chronicles a year in the life of her family and its emotional transformation from fearfulness and uncertainty, to acceptance and faith, and ultimately to the profoundly comforting belief in the transcendence of the human soul."
It "documents how her family negotiated the minefields of the medical system, explored alternative medicines, encountered the paranormal, investigated the medical use of marijuana, dealt with the harsh realities of hospice care, and discovered a wealth of meaning previously hidden to them...."
Yates experienced mystical phenomena while praying to the Virgin Mary: "...she awoke to find mysterious, elaborate markings on her right foot [which] acted as a catalyst for the spiritual growth of both her family and Sean, 'the ultimate agnostic.' And in due course it led her, in the wake of her loss, to find encouragement and hope."
Getting "The Gift of More" published was not an easy task for Yates.
"As a first time author, I could not find an agent who would take a chance on me," she said. "Also, I got the most wonderful rejection letters you can imagine. Agents would read the manuscript and say things like, 'I hope this is the one that got away.'
"'Powerful, honest, inspirational, evocative' are the words they used. I think because of all those good things, they were afraid to tackle it. It was so strange. I also believed that by trying to report the journey without malice, the message would be more readily received.
"The book has many levels and everyone seems to find something in it they can take away and use. It has been a wonderful, inspirational experience for me, too. I tried to write Gift as a reporter, with as little gratuitous emotion as I could. It is not an indictment of anything -- just the honest reporting about what happened to all of us during that final year.
"The interesting thing is that many doctors and nurses have called to tell me to make sure health care professionals read Gift. They say even with all their training, they never get the real-world information contained in my book.
"Honestly, if it were not for the mystical experience I had during that last year, I wouldn't have had the courage and belief that I must write [my book] for others."
(Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic journalist and commentator. He is a columnist for and/or contributor to Catholic Online, TheConservativeVoice.com, RenewAmerica.us, MichNews.com, Opeds.com and Speroforum.com. He is also an occasional contributor to "The Wanderer" Catholic newspaper. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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