Gignoux, J., 2013, An Insistence on life: Releasing fear of death to fully live, New York: FoulkeTale Publishing. 117 pages, 9781492745204
Reviewed by: Mona Zohny, Hunter College
At some point in our lives, all humans are forced to face the notion of death. An Insistence on Life: Releasing Fear of Death to Fully Live is a collection of stories that demonstrates various ways of dealing with death. The anecdotes in this book have been gathered and relayed by Jane Hughes Gignoux, an ordained certified Celebrant who has spent years studying healing and consciousness. She offers many workshops and courses about death, which several of the stories in the book are derived from. This book is ideal for anyone grappling with the concepts of life and death. In the Preface, Gignoux states that “life and death are inextricably connected to one another. Their dance is never ending, and the melody is pure love” (xvii).
The book consists of seventeen stories. Each chapter begins with a different segment of poetry that sets the tone for the story. Gignoux relays stories beginning from her experiences volunteering as a play therapist in the 1980’s for HIV/AIDS pediatric patients at Harlem Hospital. Some of these stories are about people accepting their own death while other focus on the experiences of people coming to terms with the death of a loved one. The title of the anthology was inspired by a friend of Gignoux who described her experience at the memorial of a loved one, stating that her friend’s house “’was filled with life. There was an insistence on that.”
Throughout the book, one of the major themes is the idea that releasing the fear of death does not necessarily mean that one can control it. Gignoux points out that one of the “…challenge[s] we all encounter in the face of death is the reality that there is absolutely nothing anyone can do to change it.” (48). The acceptance of this statement by people throughout each of these stories is directly related to the transformation to a more peaceful state of mind.
An Insistence on Life is an inspirational anthology of moving and poignant stories that portray the acceptance of death as a way to embrace life. The stories cover a range of contexts in which death must be faced and provide alternative ways of doing so. The people in these stories all come from unique backgrounds but share the desire to embrace both life and death in order to live more fulfilling lives.