ExtraOrdinary > Book Group Discussion Guide


ExtraOrdinary: An End of Life Story Without End

1. In the title, ExtraOrdinary: An End of Life Story Without End, the first word is pronounced as Extra Ordinary. Herman thought of himself as ordinary. In the preface Michele and Michael ask, “An Ordinary Man? You decide.” What is your decision? How might this apply to the rest of us?

2. Rose, Herman’s mother, lived by the Jewish tenet, “Tikkun Olam,” healing the world through charity and acts of lovingkindness. How was this core value instilled in Herman and how did it manifest throughout his life?

3. Betty and Herman’s relationship began later in life. How did this impact their experience of their marriage? As Betty grew increasingly ill, Herman’s devotion only deepened. Michele said during an excruciating day toward the end of Betty’s life, “It hit me. It’s easy to love when there’s health and good fortune. What’s not so easy is to love when your heart is breaking.” What does this mean to you?

4. Faith and fate play a huge role throughout the book. Where do you see the two intersecting as the story unfolds? Have you had experiences in your own life that seem beyond coincidence?

5. When Michael met Herman it was because of a school service learning assignment. Why do you believe Michael kept returning? How did Michael’s decision impact his life?

6. Many of us harbor pre-conceived notions, for example: Michael thought all elders like to play cards; Herman’s first roommate believed that some people are more worthy of respect than others; there are those who assume that stepfamilies are likely dysfunctional.  How were these notions and others shattered in the book?

7. In ExtraOrdinary, a multitude of healing elements are at play. Touch, prayer, memory, deep listening, and presence are just a few. How did these and others modalities help create a sense of peace and well-being? What brings a special sense of wholeness to your life?

8. Community, a feeling of connection and belonging, was an essential component of the book. Family, friends, religious affiliation, and relationship to caregivers were pivotal to the essence of the story. Which aspect of community was most alive for you as the story unfolded?

9. Michele describes “friends who become family.” Research tells us that deep friendships enhance our lives and our health. How have friends helped to sustain you?

10. A wide range of emotions was expressed in this book. We swung from light and laughter to darkness and despair and back again. Which scenes in the book most powerfully moved you?

11. If you could invite one of the characters to lunch, who might that be? What would you share or ask?

12.   On page 215 there is a list of The Twelve Never Ending Truths of Herman Liss. What are your own Never Ending Truths? Were they the same five years ago? What do you imagine your top three truths might be at the end of your life?

13. Herman described happiness as “Appreciating all of the good in your own life and helping to make life good for others.” How did this belief inform Herman’s experiences in his final 18 months? Do you find that gratitude and aiding others lifts you?

14. Publishers Weekly, the renowned literary review magazine, said of Herman, “He always encouraged others to follow their dreams and was deeply committed to treat others as he wished to be treated. Readers can expect tears to flow as Herman’s life inspires them to be better.” Has Herman’s life inspired you, and if so, how? What do you believe it means "to be better?"