What matters in the end

Opinion: Columns

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By Margita Lidaka

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What makes life meaningful? What really matters in the end? Can you answer these questions for yourself? Do you know how your loved ones might reply?

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, is the non-fiction memoir chosen as this summer's One Book, One Oak Park title. Written by surgeon Atul Gawande, it is available in print, audio, and digital formats.

Through in-depth research and heartfelt storytelling, Gawande examines how advances in modern medicine have made formerly untreatable conditions and illnesses manageable. And, at the same time, how modern medicine often fails to address patients' quality of life. With gripping depictions of his own experiences and those of patients facing aging and death, Gawande invites readers to reflect on their own experiences.

Which is exactly what we did to prepare for this summer reading program. During our internal staff discussions, we opened up about fears and our futures. About losing family members, about our own interactions with medical professionals, and about what we wish we would have known or done differently. We also talked about how Being Mortal provides hope, with its satisfying depictions of growing older and guidelines for difficult discussions about end-of-life care.

Beginning June 13, library events will illuminate these topics even further. Find details — including dates and times for open book discussions, unique seminars, and a dynamic screening of PBS Frontline's Being Mortal at oppl.org/onebook. Or pick up a program series booklet at any library location. It features the same event information and suggestions on what to read, watch, and listen to next.

One Book, One Oak Park concludes on Aug. 10 with a panel discussion featuring four local experts. Starting at 7 p.m. at the Main Library, Lydia Manning, an associate professor of gerontology at Concordia University; Dr. Mary Ann Bender, a podiatrist in Oak Park; Amy Schigelone, a lecturer at the University of Chicago; and Diane Slezak, chief operating officer at AgeOptions, will present various perspectives and answer audience questions.

We hope you join us on our journey this summer: to learn with family, neighbors, and friends, and to connect more deeply to what matters most to you about being mortal.

Oak Park Public Library Reader's Advisory Librarian Margita Lidaka is the coordinator of the One Book, One Oak Park community summer reading program. In its fourth year, the program's aim is to connect neighbors and build community through discussion and learning around one title.

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