This book really hit me by surprise.
I thought I was going to read a nice sentimental book about the regrets of all the things not said before a son loses his father, and so on. Well, it was like that, but it was so much more. Peace At The Edge Of Uncertainty by Neil Hanson takes a look at our worries, fears, and the myths associated with the afterlife. It is as much about those close to us as it is about ourselves. Mr. Hanson makes a concerted effort at the beginning of the book to be as non-denominational as possible, even going as far as using the word G-d throughout the entire book when referring to a singular overseeing being or force that sees and knows all. I, myself, not being of the Christian faiths was comforted by this and decided to use my own word in place of G-d, as Mr. Hanson encourages us to do.
This book is non-fiction, however, it read as fiction to me for the most part. I mean this as a compliment. Mr. Hanson chooses to put the book in the form of a letter to his father, who passed fifteen years prior to the writing of the letter. A fact that is telling in and of itself. It seems that it took him that long to come to terms with his own feelings and beliefs to put this in writing. Even at this point, he is still trying to put things right.
He talks of unexplained things that have happened to him at certain points in his life and is able to relate them to the death of his father, who is suddenly in a coma one day and the doctors are waiting for him (the eldest of 3 siblings) to make a decision as to whether or not to insert a feeding tube into his father. The fact that their mother wasn’t a part of their group seems complicated, and is dealt with later in a heartfelt confession from the author. Their father is being kept alive by a respirator, but if they decide to insert a feeding tube, it becomes very difficult to decide to remove it at a later time. At that point, it would be a conscious decision to starve him to death by refusing him food.
His two other siblings come to agreement rather quickly that this wouldn’t be what their father wanted at all. So, after a few days they decide to take their father off of the respirator. He doesn’t die right away. Something that they were warned about by the doctors when they were removing the respirator. All at once they are keeping vigil at their father’s bedside 24 hours a day. They had all decided to be sure that someone would be there when he passed, even though the doctors assured him that there was little to no brain activity in their father, they still talked and read to him. It is the author who spends the majority of time at bedside, taking most of the night shifts.
Rather than carry on, giving you my own play by play of the book, I would much rather advise you to read it. It doesn’t matter what you believe or even if you don’t believe anything at all, this book will still speak to you on unexpected levels. Have you ever had an experience that you couldn’t explain? Most people have, they just don’t talk about them as much as UFO sightings, or possible ghost sightings in old houses. Why do you think that is? Mr Hanson mentions this, and decides that science would simply ignore what it couldn’t explain and the leaders of just about any faith on earth would pass them off as ‘evil’, ‘unholy’ or other kinds of anti-religion sentiment. For what would the faiths of man do if there was suddenly something clearly and totally explained for all of us to see? For the most part, it seems to me, all of the faiths serve themselves. If there were suddenly total proof of something that contradicted any or all of the religions of the world, what would happen then? Well, my own two cents is that history will repeat itself, as it continually does, and there would be war. With each other, with whatever had been made clear, a holy war or any other possible way to destroy the answer to all of man’s questions and problems.
Sorry if I started to get a little deep there, but there you have it. That is the kind of thing I found myself thinking about as I read the book. Mr. Hanson takes us through some very personal experiences from his life, and from his time at the side of his father’s deathbed. He describes his experience of seeing ‘light’ and hearing everyone in the universe speaking/singing in harmony and yet complete and total silence at the same time.
As mentioned in the first words of my review, this book took me by surprise. It took me to places I didn’t expect to go. I believe that it will do the same for you despite all that I have told you about this book. I haven’t given you an exact retelling of his story, but I have given you an idea of what to expect. Peace At The Edge Of Uncertainty is one of the most apt titles I have come across this year. In the end, Mr. Hanson finds his peace and uncertainty is the constant that drives this story and his journey.
This is worth reading, if only to face your own uncertainties about faith, the after-life, or just living in the now. I felt all the better for having read it myself. I hope you have the courage to do so as well.