"Death is our life's culmination, its crowning moment, and what gives it both sense and worth. It is nevertheless an immense mystery, a great question mark that we carry in our very marrow," writes Marie de Hennezel, a psychologist. With great sensitivity, the author (translated by Carol Brown Janeway) describes her experiences over a seven-year period on the staff of the first palliative care unit in a Paris hospital for people with terminal illnesses. She takes us into the far country of death where men, women, and children struggle with loneliness, fear, physical deterioration, and loss of self-respect. The staff watching over these people try to ease their pain with stories, the healing power of touch, and care laced with compassion.

This task of keeping company with those on the way to death comes across as a sacred calling. De Hennezel has filled this emotionally affecting and edifying book with memorable epiphanies about the process of "diving into death" when patients decide to finally let go. The lessons about both living and dying here are profound.