This book is recommended reading for anyone, regardless of whether they have experienced a loss or are grieving. It is also appropriate for people who are anticipating a loss.
This book is recommended for young adults and adults.
“Never do I feel the miracle of life more so than in the face of death.”
~ Steve Leder
The Beauty of What Remains by Rabbi Steve Leder is a book about life as much as it is about death – perhaps even more so. When a loved one dies, we grieve, yes, but we’re also left with the treasures of a life lived – the memories and love that never need to leave us. Those memories - the beauty of what remains - have the powerful ability to both move us forward in our grief and help us ensure our loved one lives on. They also remind us of our own mortality and that the greatest legacy we can leave lies not in the material goods we amass throughout a lifetime, but in the memories and experiences we share with the people we love.
Leder writes, “People do not really die when the heart stops beating. As long as their lives, their values, the melody to which they loved and danced continue to play in the memories of loved ones and through their effects on the world, they live on.”
Leder’s beautiful storytelling writing style invites us into his world as a rabbi and a son, a father and a friend. While much of the book focuses on the death of his own father, he also shares many stories of the more than 1,000 people he has buried throughout his career. His work as a rabbi often comes into play, especially when he attempts to reconcile his religious beliefs about death and dying regarding a friend who seeks his blessing to end her live using aid-in-dying medication. Leder the rabbi and Leder the friend struggle with this moral dilemma.
Throughout the book, Leder reminds the reader that the pain of our loss is in direct proportion to the love we have for our loved one, and that to deny our grief is to deny our love.
- A rabbi friend of the author, whose son died by suicide, eulogized him in part by saying “The pain of our loss is the greatest evidence we can offer of the importance and meaning of life.” Do you find that you value life more after experiencing the death of loved ones?
- The author writes, “I have learned from my own father’s death that often the things we miss the most are seemingly small and insignificant and yet so emblematic of who that person was and always will be within us.” What are the little things you miss most about your loved ones?
- The author writes, “A family’s storytelling before a funeral always creates an amazing transformation – from tears to tears and laughter; from hopelessness to the certainty that we live on through memory; from the pain of isolation to the kinships of family. It is life in the midst of death.” What story about your loved one has gone untold?
- The author writes, “People do not really die when the heart stops beating. As long as their lives, their values, the melody to which they loved and danced continue to play in the memories of loved ones and through their effects on the world, they live on.” How do your loved ones live on?
- The author writes, “If you think about your own favorite photos, you can immediately grasp that pictures are priceless because they represent moments in time with the people we love.” What are your favorite photos of you loved one and why are they special?
- Is there a story in this book to which you could relate?
- When you think of your loved ones who have died, what, for you, is the beauty of what remains?
About the Reviewer
This book was read and is recommended by the Remembering A Life team.