Talking About Dying Won't Kill Us.


We are all going to die, though an estimated 76% of us pretend we’re not. We go through life without preparing for our departure. We think if we don’t talk about death; if we don’t write anything down; if we don’t make a big deal out of it, it won’t happen to us. We’ll sneak by death stealthily. We’ll squeeze out a bit more time because obviously we’re not ready to go. This is how I ended up writing my husband’s will while he was dying.


We tried taking comfort in Rilke's gentle reminder that "death is our friend precisely because it brings us into absolute and passionate presence with all that is here, that is natural, that is love," but it would have been easier if we had been the tiniest bit prepared.



Planning for the inevitable doesn’t have to be scary. It’s much scarier not to plan, even if you think you have absolutely nothing of value to leave behind. You can always leave a few comments for those you loved.


While Richard was dying, I wished I had a book to help us organize our thoughts. I assumed my scientist husband would want to leave his body to science. I assumed my atheist husband wouldn’t want a religious ceremony. I assumed he wouldn’t want to be buried in the 800-year-old churchyard in our English village, where we often strolled hand-in-hand, watching for bats on summer evenings. I was certain he would never want a huge, hand-carved, Victorian stone marking his passing. I could not have been more wrong about everything.



Richard wanted it all: A traditional Church of England funeral with organist, choir and hymns; a handmade willow casket made for him in Somerset; a burial, six feet under with rose petals scattered on his casket as it was lowered into the ground; a wake at his favourite sixteenth century pub, a convenient 100 yards from where he was buried. He wanted an ornate, hand-carved headstone, made from Portland Stone, chiseled out of a nearby quarry and placed in the best spot in the churchyard. He got it all, but it was I who benefited from the fulfillment of his last wishes.


No matter how well we think we know our best beloveds, when it comes to death and dying, we probably don’t. I found tremendous comfort knowing I was fulfilling everything Richard asked me to do, long after he was gone. I’m grateful we had time to work through the details. Many of us don’t. It doesn’t have to be like this. We can write the final chapter ourselves. We can have the last word. We can make our passing a bit more bearable for those we leave behind by reassuring them they are fulfilling our desires.



In the end it’s not about us, it’s about those who loved us best; those still here, after we’re gone. They deserve to know what we’d like them to do when we’re not around. There is great comfort in fulfilling the desire of those we love.

This four minute, animated video titled "The Life of Death" was made by Dutch animator Marsha Onderstijn. It shows the quiet, gentle side of death and dying.



Mini Library with links to some of my favourite books, along with helpful organisations, research, and articles on death and dying.


Find out more about Humanism here.


Let's talk about Assisted Dying here


Ideas about Memorials and Epitaphs here.


Films and TV Shows about death here