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This will happen to you, too

The world is full of sickness and death. Or, maybe just my world — though I suspect if you live long and love deeply this will happen in your world too. 

In times of sadness and uncertainty, I turn to books. And so, for the last few years as sickness set in and death hovered, I considered what makes a good life, and a good death, and how do we get there? So you don't have to wade through the muck (death/dying/grief is a saturated market!), let me share the books that have helped me through: 

Being Mortal:
Medicine and What Matters in the End

Knocking on Heaven’s Door:
The Path to a Better Way of Death


God’s Hotel:
A Doctor, A Hospital, and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine

Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

Bettyville: A Memoir 

All the Dancing Birds

These books provided insight, perspective, and sometimes solace. But really, after all the research and study, the best information came from two unexpected sources: a movie and a friend. 

The Meyerowitz Stories is not a great movie but sometimes the right sentiment hits you in the right place at the right time. In this movie (available on Netflix) three adult children are dealing with their difficult, declining father. They are told the five things to say to him before he dies:

I love you.

Forgive me.

I forgive you.

Thank you. 


These short sentences are powerful. And, it turns out they are adapted from a book — of course! —  The Four Things That Matter Most: A Book About Living, by Dr. Ira Byock, a leader in palliative care.

Years ago, before I started walking my own family and friends to the end, a friend in the throes of her own loss tendered these wise words:

Death is not a crisis

Death has the power to make us reel, ache and fold in half. And it may feel like an emergency, all adrenaline and fog. But death, like birth, is nature, not crisis. 




Reader Comments (8)

Thank you Drew.

February 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

Hello Lisa.
Thank you for popping in. Always warms my heart to know you are out there, reading, thinking, absorbing. Sending love and light your way.

February 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDrew

Drew, thank you for these recommendations.

Atul Gawande's Being Mortal brought me invaluable peace and comfort after participating in decisions with loved ones to cease measures taken to prolong life.

Another book is When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi MD. He began writing the book, a powerful narrative, after receiving a cancer diagnosis and the book was ultimately finished by his wife.

February 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNaomi Steenson

How timely for me as my mother just this week found out that she has lung and spine cancer. In the early stages of dementia, she has not processed this yet. I am bitter and raging against a God Ive never really known. So, your selections are sorely needed. Is there one that I should read first?
P.S. I stumbled upon your blog via another blog and have been touched often by your pensive, sensitive words.

February 13, 2018 | Unregistered Commentersrenatee

Hello Srenatee.

Thank you so much for finding me, and for your kind words. I like "pensive and sensitive." : )

First, I'm sorry for your mother's illness. There are no easy words, or words that are big enough to fill the chasm you might be feeling. I am sorry.

Second, I found great longview comfort in "Being Mortal" and I found good here's-how comfort in "Knocking on Heaven's Door."

That said, wherever you are, and whatever you read next, is exactly right. If anything, I've found there is no one path in all this.


February 13, 2018 | Registered CommenterDrew

So nice to see you here!
"When Breath Becomes Air" is an excellent suggestion. I enjoyed that one too.

February 13, 2018 | Registered CommenterDrew

Thanks, Drew. I have learned much during my two years of grief for my husband, and many years of anticipatory grief during his illness. One lesson is to be even more mndful.and prepared so your post is valuable. One good book is Mourning and Mitzvah. Even better than books is connection , with loving, supportive people who will help the mourner go on. Unfortunately, our society is so afraid of and in denial about death that many of us don't know how to plan nor how to give support

February 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJana Z

Hi Jana.

Good to see you here! Thanks for the book suggestion.

I hope you've found a good support system. Grief is such an individual process; I'm finding what works for one persona may not for another. As with life, death and grief have many paths.

Take care. xox

February 17, 2018 | Registered CommenterDrew

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