Book Reviews

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There is no other book like this. It is a fascinating and loving collaboration -- between a wife and a husband; between an artist and a scientist; between the living and the dead.  Sky Above Clouds embodies Dr. gene Cohen’s message of creativity, growth, and care in the face of aging, loss and death.  It is imaginative and fearless, hopeful yet grounded. Read it.

Thomas R. Cole, PhD, University of Texas-Houston School of Medicine, Director, McCovern Chair in Medical Humanities, author of The Journey of Life: A Cultrual History of Aging in America

 

Dr. Cohen’s groundbreaking work to develop the concept of creative aging has provided a blueprint for the future of aging where growth and development play as important a role as decline and disability. In a work that is both manual and memoir, Dr. Miller incorporates Gene Cohen's voice and thinking into her own and describes how creative aging can enable individuals to grow beyond the limitations imposed by both illness and aging. The story flows beautifully, poignant at places, instructive always, and moving. This book is about facing adversity and loss and how to cope, told in a way that opens up to a broad audience including professionals in psychology, social work, case management, therapeutic programming and the arts who work with older individuals. It will appeal to geriatric psychiatrists and should be highlighted at their meetings.

Marc E. Agronin, MD, Vice President of Behavioral Health at Miami Jewish Health Systems and author of How We Age 

 

This book takes us into the inner galactic spheres of creative potential and healing. The fact that Cohen’s illness went on for more than 13 years – a powerful condition called ‘Medically, you do not exist’ makes this book a miracle story because this is what gave both authors the opportunity to have such powerful insights. They wrote under the sword of Damocles of his severe metastatic condition, within the context of raising a child, thriving professionally, and loving one another: the miracle of the life that they weren’t supposed to have gave them the opportunity to merge their personal and professional lives, and to flesh out concepts that are not normally understood around aging, illness, and a creative life. This story is amazing to any of us reading.

Sanford Finkel, MD, geriatric psychiatrist, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, University of Chicago Medical School

 

“Tell your numbers in a rhyme if you can,” an exercise in imagination associated with the game of cribbage, brought two creative healing souls – artist Wendy Miller and scientist Gene Cohen – together in life and death. Their book Sky Above Clouds reveals the twinkling depths of the unfathomable universe of human compassion and wisdom. This beautiful piece of writing intergeneratively blends the quantum and qualia of life and allows us to experience the swirling galactic energy of their shared relationship. It shows us that one and one ae fun and also a few more than two.

Peter Whitehouse, MD, PhD, Professor of Neurology, Case Western Reserve University, author of The Myth of Alzhei

 

This book brings us the message of ourselves in our own dream couples of marriage, as Wendy and Gene become our guiding image of what we all carry—the utter terror of losing our beloved soul mates—and sometime in a sleepless night, that awareness knocks at the door. This book is the witness of mourning; that everlasting love, carried in its beautiful, radiant, empowered and yes, sad, language, in its crystallization of that experience, is a pathfinder in the art of aging.

Paolo J Knill, PhD and Margo Fuchs Knill, PhD, Professors, European Graduate School, authors of Minstrels of Soul

 

Sky Above Clouds is a powerful narrative of illness that will reshape current thinking about chronic disease, health care, aging, and the arts. On one level, it is an intensely personal story of Gene Cohen’s thirteen-year battle with metastatic prostate cancer and Wendy’s insightful observations made throughout the long journey as his wife and caregiver. It chronicles their approach to managing his care when he was deemed a “medical outlier” and the impact of the illness on their relationship, family members, and their professional lives, his as a renowned gero-psychiatrist, researcher, and author and hers as an artist, art therapist, and psychologist. On another level, it portrays how interweaving their unique perspectives as scientist and artist influenced their approach and led to the formulation of an exciting new paradigm about aging and illness, one that emphasizes human potential and the creative spirit to bring new meaning to later life and end of life. Health providers, educators, researchers, and those in the arts and humanities who seek to move beyond entrenched thinking about illness and aging can benefit greatly from this “work of art.”

Linda Noekler, PhD, Adjunct Professor of Sociology, Case Western Reserve University

 

 

​This is a brilliant, illuminating, poetic, and profoundly touching book. Its hopeful loving message should be read by every expressive arts therapist and caregiver wanting to help others find their way in the shifting clouds of life. We see the vicissitudes of the gathering storm through Wendy’s unflinchingly honest artist eyes, and marvel at Gene’s equally clear-eyed scientific capacity to find the sky above, and to harness the power of creativity in the deepest sense.

Judith A. Rubin, PhD, ATR-BC, HLM, President, Expressive Media, Inc., author of 7 books including The Art of Art Therapy, and creator of 13 films on art therapy, including Beyond Words: Art Therapy with Older Adults

 

This powerful book is about life with illness beyond heartbreak - teaching us all love, grace and creativity make a powerful cocktail for living fully.  Miller/Cohen take us across many bridges translating what are such essential human experiences into a sea change of ideas breaking down the paradigms of stale medical models and aging stereotypes with strength and resilience.  Sky Above Clouds is a must read as much for healthcare providers as for the couples and families living with and through catastrophic illnesses. 

Gay Powell Hanna, PhD MFA, Executive Director, National Center for Creative Aging

 

This book is a spiritual treatise on love and creativity in life’s major transitions.

Andrea Sherman, PhD. Cofounder of Transitional Keys and Co-developer of Seasons of Care, A Care for the Caregiver Program

 

At various times in one’s life and especially during an illness, it is vital to be able to creatively assess, interpret, and react to your situation. Loss is inevitable but true strength, power and hope are found in how we experience and make sense of loss. Tin this book, there is a sense of continuity despite the chaos of time; there is endurance despite change. Emotional movement that varies from loss, to reflection, to hope, to new futures is a chain that is repeated within smaller sections as well as in the book as a whole.  I felt that as a person reading this book, I needed to know that people can survive loss, not that they’re unchanged by it, but that they are not destroyed. The elements of this book come together into full consciousness, creating a special gift of insight.

Kate de Medeiros, Ph.D, Blayney Associate Professor of Sociology and Gerontology, Miami University, author of Narrative Gerontology in Research and Practice 

 

Art therapist Wendy Miller and Gene Cohen, the guru of creative aging, shared a public silence about Gene’s terminal cancer for a remarkable 13 years. As the fog of grief sur- rounding Gene’s illness and death has lifted, Wendy has reclaimed her voice and created a poetic reflection of the love affair with art, science, and creativity she shared with Gene. Sky Above Clouds is a contemplation on the power of the creative spirit to find sunshine behind and beyond a tempestuous struggle with terminal cancer. It is a story of personal heroism, survival, and recovery with profound lessons for us all.

Michael C. Patterson, co-founder, CEO of MINDRAMP Consulting, past manager of AARP’s Brain Health Program, and emeritus board member (with Gene Cohen) of the National Center for Creative Aging

 

Sky Above Clouds is the inside story of how science and art come together to create something larger than one plus one equals two. Creativity and the creative imagination are at the heart of this magical transformation. First the father wishes to write a fairytale for his daughter whom he may not see grow up. Then Gene and Wendy come together to bridge, enhance, and illuminate our understanding of “living with loss.” With profound gratitude, I thank Gene and Wendy for sharing their unique perspectives on resilience and growth as these creative thinkers integrate theory and life in story. We are our stories. Sky Above Clouds is an important tale that shows the power of art and science to uplift and inspire us all in challenging times. In addition, the field of creative aging exists because of the “Creativity and Aging Study” conducted by Dr. Gene Cohen: research, programs, and policy converging into NCCA.

Susan Perlstein, founder, National Center for Creative Aging (NCCA)

 

In this beautiful volume, Wendy Miller and Gene Cohen offer a deeply-moving account of love, illness, wisdom, aging, and death. Sky Above Clouds is a joy to read and a profound book, one filled with invaluable insights for making the most of the second half of life.

Marc Freedman, CEO, Encore.org and author of The Big Shift, Encore, and Prime Time

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