US Catholic Faith in Real Life

USC Book Club: I Wasn't Dead When I Wrote This

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June 2013:

I Wasn't Dead When I Wrote This: Advice Given in the Nick of Time

By Lisa-Marie Calderone-Stewart

Review: Joe Durepos of Loyola Press had the guts to approach Lisa-Marie Calderone-Stewart on her deathbed to ask if she would write this book. Calderone-Stewart actually said yes. Thank goodness, because now we have I Wasn’t Dead When I Wrote This. Although the author was a youth minister and the book is pitched as advice to the young, her words speak to the bald, paunchy, and gray-haired as well.

Short on time, the author does not waste a word. Durepos told Publishers Weekly, “I came in on the last five minutes of a really good soul’s life to hear her talk in her last lucid moment about the spiritual truths she had discovered.” How can that not make for terrific reading? It also propels the reader to ponder, “What would I write from my own deathbed?”

—Catherine O'Connell-Cahill, Senior Editor, U.S. Catholic

Loyola Press says: It is never too late to change your life or to shape someone else’s—and Calderone-Stewart does just that with this honest, heartfelt perspective on living written a few months before dying.

Paperback: $12.95

Available at bookstores or from Loyola Press: 800-621-1008 or shop online at

Order now from Loyola Press.

General Book Club guidelines

Questions for Discussion

1. The author died shortly before this book was published. Written in her final months before dying of cancer, Calderone-Stewart gives her most urgent hopes and advice for young people. If you knew that you had a short time to live, what would you say to people, and how would you say it?

2. In chapter 2, Calderone-Stewart says, “Most of us are so fragile inside. The smallest things can take away our confidence.” She goes on to talk about popularity, beauty, and being your best self. What do you think it takes to find and become your best self? What things might get in the way of that?

3. One message of chapter 3 is this: A healthy relationship is like a gentle dance. What does the author mean by that? How can we be gentle—in conversation or in sexuality? And how is a relationship like a dance?

4. Calderone-Stewart admits, in chapter 4, that she wasn’t always a good daughter or sister. But when she realized that her behavior was ungrateful and unloving, she decided to make a change. What did she do? How can a person change to make family life better and happier? How can you deal with a family situation that has its problems—that is, how can you avoid being part of the problem?

5. Chapter 5 has the statement: “Authentic is the new cool.” Authenticity is a combination of integrity, honesty, and service. Think of someone you know who is authentic. How does that person demonstrate authenticity? For you, what’s the hardest part of being authentic? What’s the most satisfying aspect of living an authentic life?

6. What’s the most creative thing you’ve ever done? When do you know that your imagination is stimulated and working well? What can you do to inspire creativity and imagination in your life, especially when your day isn’t so exciting or inspiring?

7. At the end of chapter 8, Calderone-Stewart says that “learning to forgive is one of the most essential tasks of adulthood.” What have you learned about forgiving others and being forgiven? What happens to a person who holds on to anger rather than forgives?

8. As a cancer patient, the author understood quite well that she was living on borrowed time. But she urges every person to live fully because we never know how long we have. She encourages us to cherish memories and make each moment count. How do you cherish memories? If this month were your last month on earth, what would you say to the people in your life? What would you do?

9. “It takes time to understand the meaning in our lives,” writes Calderone-Stewart. “In order to take the time, we need to make reflection a priority.” For you, what gets in the way of being reflective? What suggestions does Calderone-Stewart offer for living a “reflected-upon” life? How can you build reflection into your daily or weekly schedule?

10. In chapter 11, the author tells us to “Go ahead—take the plunge.” She means that it’s not enough to sit on the sidelines but that each one of us needs to get truly engaged with life. And then she makes this important statement: “Don’t wait for perfection; wonderful is good enough.” What do you think she means by that? What are you waiting for? How do you plan to take the plunge?