I’ve Seen The End Of You: A Neurosurgeon’s Look At Faith, Doubt, And The Things We Think We Know, by W. Lee Warren, MD
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Multnomah/Waterbrook Press. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
In the process of reading this book, I realized that the title of the book was far darker than I had thought it to be before starting it. Over and over again in this book, the author reflects upon his knowledge of a particular type of brain tumor, glioblastoma, with a very typical pattern of recurrence and infliction of horrible suffering before (nearly) certain death within a few years. The author artfully manages to discuss this particular disease in the context of his own struggles to understand and accept God’s providence (or lack thereof) in his own life and in the lives of others, even as he serves to combine faith with skilled medical care and a high view of science in general. In the end, he comes to an understanding that he does not see the end of his patients as inevitably as he thought, and that the awareness of the gap between what he knows and what he believes is one that frees him (and others) from a great deal of the bitterness that could otherwise consume one who is engaged in the long war against brain cancers.
This book is about 250 pages long and is divided into three parts and 33 chapters. The three parts of the book are unequally divided to such an extent that the first part contains 27 chapters of the book, before the death of the author’s son put him into a deep crisis of faith and almost derailed his attempts to promote his first book. This “before” chapter runs over much of the same ground the author had previously written about when discussing his experiences as a military doctor and discusses a variety of cases and his own growth as a doctor in dealing with brain tumors and the question of how end-of-life decisions and work dealing with grim brain cancers affects one’s Christian walk. Four chapters deals with the during period where the author deals with the darkness of struggling with grief and the books and counsel that helped him through his crisis of faith. The book then ends with two chapters that look at his efforts to provide encouragement to others dealing with the same situations and the recognition that believing is better than the illusion of knowing what will happen, after which the book closes with an epilogue that looks at two options that are worse than a life of honest belief, as well as acknowledgments and notes.
One of the strengths of the author’s approach as a writer is the way that he makes his practice and the people that he encounters come alive. Whether the reader is reflecting upon the author’s process of developing competence and compassion on those he deals with, or whether we grieve with him at the death of his son and of the slow decline to so many people to recurring brain tumors and the hope and surprising life changes that result when people receive such a grim prognosis after having had seizures and nosebleeds and headaches that led them to the CT and MRI scans and biopsies that provided the evidence needed to diagnose them, this book’s description of the lives of doctors and patients and friends is moving. The author manages to pursue several simultaneous lines of inquiry, including a discussion of the various paths that glioblastoma can take in the lives of people, a harrowing discussion of the way that some people are afraid of death and do not realize that there are some things worse than death, including lives destroyed by fear, as well as an appreciation of the mysterious and inscrutable ways in which God works in people to accomplish His purposes.