Preparing for Death -- Resources


Each book is linked to its corresponding page on Amazon. The purpose is this is not to promote buying it at Amazon (but at least you know of one source) but so that you can read the reviews and learn more than I share here. After the author and publishing information, material in [brackets] shows access information at the Pella library.

1. Dying Well by John Wyatt (Inter-Varsity Press, 2018) [236.1 WYATT DYING]
This is main text for the group. More about Dr. John Wyatt. I looked at a number of books before choosing this one. As I read it, I was continually impressed with how insightful Wyatt was as he put this book together. He writes forcefully with clarity, choosing his words judiciously and efficiently. Though his focus is usually quite clear, I also appreciate that in places he leaves it to the reader to connect the dots. While it was written by a scholar, it does not come across as "academic". Some quotes from the back cover, with which I totally agree (sourced there): "We could ask for no wiser nor more honest, practical and compassionate guide.", "Deeply helpful and relevant.", "The practical, wise, real and encouraging book that I have wanted both for myself and for the church."
2. Living Thoughtfully, Dying Well by Glen E. Miller MD (Herald Press, 2014)
This has some similarities to the book above. Each chapter has some discussion questions. The author has been an MD for many years but also has a degree in theology (Mennonite background) and spent 7 years associated with Mother Teresa. He himself almost died several times. He tells his story but weaves into it the premise that we should be Living Thoughtfully and Dying Well. I also found it interesting that one of the chapters deals with an interview with Father Kilian from St. John's University, my undergraduate alma mater.
3. Saying Goodbye to Someone You Love: Your Emotional Journey Through End of Life and Grief by Norine Dresser and Fredda Wasserman (Demos Health, 2010) [155.937 DRESSER SAYING]
This book was co-authored by Norine whose husband was helped by hospice with his terminal illness and Fredda a bereavement specialist whom she later met. The book walks through the issues in the steps of Saying Goodbye to Someone You Love. Each chapter details how Norine processed the step, vignettes of how others have processed the step, and then summary conclusions about how to deal with the step.
4. The Four Things That Matter Most: A Book About Living by Ira Byock MD (Atria Books, 2004, 2014) [158.2 BYOCK FOUR and electronic]
"Please forgive me." "I forgive you." "I love you." "Thank you." Don't wait to say these things. The author is a palliative care physician who tells many stories where one or more of these statements had a valuable impact. I read this book to Marcia in her last months and almost each reading pulled at our heartstrings.
5. Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande MD (Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt, 2014) [362.175 GAWANDE BEING and electronic]
My friend, racquetball partner, and Marcia's first doctor in MN to treat her cancer recommended this book to us at her first visit. I then read it to Marcia in her first weeks of treatment as biopsy, PET scan, chemo, and cancer became household words. Powerful book. NY Times Review and Frontline video on same topic
6. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi MD (Random House, 2015) [B KALANITH PAUL WHEN and electronic]
This is an autobiography that I read to Marcia while she was taking the "hard chemo". Her sister Nona hesitantly recommended the book, but it was so apt. This book was hard to read to her without becoming emotional. I heartily recommend this book. NY Times Review Audiobook 2014 NY Times Opinion by Kalanithi Wikipedia on book
7. May I Walk You Home? by Joyce Hutchison and Joyce Rupp (Ave Maria Press, 1999, 2009) [259.4175 HUTCHINS MAY]
Joyce Hutchison is a long-time Hospice nurse who tells stories about walking with patients as she tends to their last days. Joyce Rupp offers corresponding prayers. Both of these women lived and worked in central Iowa.
8. Now That You've Gone Home: Courage and Comfort for Times of Grief by Joyce Hutchison and Joyce Rupp (Ave Maria Press, 2009)
See above; these two continue their last book by telling stories about those who have lost their loved ones and are dealing with grief.
9. On My Way Home: A Hospice Nurse's Journey with Terminal Cancer by Joyce Hutchison and Joyce Rupp (Ave Maria Press, 2017)
See the two preceding books. Joyce Hutchinson narrates her walk with terminal cancer and related issues. Joyce Rupp starts and finishes the story.
10. On Death and Dying: What the Dying Have to Teach Doctors, Nurses, Clergy and Their Own Families by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (Scribner, 1969) [155.937 KUBLERRO ON DEATH]
This has been the "classic" book on the topic of death and dying. Our author, Wyatt, has some concerns about the philosophical framework used in talking about the five stages of death. Much of the book consists of transcriptions of interviews with those who are terminally ill.
11. Staying in Charge: Practical Plans for the End of Your Life by Karen Kaplan and Christopher Lukas (Wiley, 2004) [362.175 Kaplan Staying]
The title of the book summarizes it. There are many useful ideas mentioned here and worth a read.
12. O Love That Will Not Let Me Go: Facing Death with Courageous Confidence in God edited by Nancy Guthrie (Crossway Books, 2011)
A series of essays from reformation onward, including a number of modern ones, mostly dealing with death. Read part of the intro by Guthrie.
13. Closure: The Rush to End Grief and What it Costs Us by Nancy Berns (Temple University Press, 2011)
An important book for anyone who thinks grief should end at the funeral or other situations.
14. With the End in Mind: Dying, Death, and Wisdom in an Age of Denial by Kathryn Mannix (Hachette Book Group, 2018)
A palliative doctor working in the UK shares many of her experiences with those who were in their last days. Her role as a hospice doctor helped bring peace to many in their final days.

Web sites

These are mostly considered web sites that cover the general nature of this group. There are many more links in the Annotated Action Steps section that correspond to a specific action step in the handouts.

1. The Art of Dying Well
This site is brought to us by St. Mary's University in the UK. It used as a good source for Catholics who are looking for guidance but the material is valuable to many. This site also hosts a podcast of the same name and cited below.
2. A Conversation Starter Kit.
When it comes to end-of-life care, talking matters. This starter kit equips folks to start the process of talking about end-of-life issues through a series of questions and form that gets filled in. This comes from The Conversation Project
3. End of Life Care - Pella Regional Health Center
This page talks about a living will and durable power of attorney, its benefits, and what to do with it. Here is their Advance Directives Form. A related end of life care topic at this site is their Hospice page.
4. Five Wishes
Five Wishes is an easy-to-use legal advance directive document written in everyday language. It helps all adults, regardless of age or health, to consider and document how they want to be cared for at the end of life. It is America's most popular living will with more than 35 million copies in circulation. (Instead of ordering, consider this online version.)
Dying Matters - Let's talk about it
A UK website with many subpages worth browsing. Here are few to consider: "No one wants to talk about dying" poster, short videos, extensive checklist, Talking about death and dying
Caring Bridge
A health crisis throws everything into chaos. Because your family and friends care, questions and phone calls won't stop and stuff begins to pile up. Your personal CaringBridge website gives you one centralized, private place to share health updates and request help. [from their website]. I have found this helpful when tracking a former student who was battling brain tumors.
Death and Dying: A Christian Approach
A continuing education course for nurses by a nurse from a Christian perspective. Quite well done. (Seems to endorse Kübler-Ross ideas.)
Deathbed Etiquette
A page within website #1 that gives some useful tips if visiting an ill person is new to you meant to give you some guidance.
Cancer, Clare and me: actor Greg Wise on the death of his sister
This is an independent interview, but related to the focus of episode 12 in the first podcast referenced below.
Causes of death
This site looks deaths on a global and by-country basis, discussing the causes of deaths and also illustrating with bar graphs. Note also that there are animations of the bargraphs to show the changes on a yearly basis from 1990 to 2017. There is also a menu to choose many other countries than are actually shown.
Full body donation: Biogift, U of IA, U of MN; organ donation: Iowa
Places to donate your entire body or just some organs.
Lucy's Love Bus
This talks about a foundation-funded program for children with cancer in the New England states so that they non-traditional integrative therapies such as music therapy, horseback riding and more. Based on the story of 11-year old Lucy Grogan who battled leukemia. This story is told, with many other short stories in At the End of Life, edited by Lee Gutkind. It would be neat if something like this was available in the midwest.


Be Honest And Concrete: Tips For Talking To Kids About Death
As part of NPR's LifeKit series, this short podcast gives some concrete ways of helping children understand death and how to talk to them about death. If you have children, this is worth hearing.
The Art of Dying Well (Apple podcast)
Some very helpful discussions, some particularly moving and inspirational. Episode 10 (Love, Loss and Coping) I found particularly powerful witness to God's grace at the time of a father with young children. I also found episode 12 (Time to talk about death) also a powerful witness focusing on actor Greg Wise (Lord Mountbatten in The Crown) and his sister. I also found episode 16 (Life Interrupting Grief) to be a good listen about a Christian whose wife goes from sick to death in a week and the things that he learned.
Let's Talk About Death And Dying
An interesting podcast that sometimes seems a bit scattered and redundant but has some good messages if you let it grow on you.
7 Podcasts About End-of-Life Care
These podcasts are curated on The Conversation Project
Dying Matters Podcast
From the Dying Matters website (listed above), this has several seasons of podcasts. If you liked #12 in the first podcast mentioned, he (Greg Wise) is on a podcast here (season 2, #4)

Online videos

1. Frontline video on Being Mortal
This hour-long Frontline video (PBS) walks with the author Atul Gawande MD (see more on his book above) as he visits patience at various stages of their lives. If you only have time to watch this for about five minutes, view from 2:50 - 8:10, though the whole video is well worth watching.
2. Beyond Closure: Nancy Berns at TEDxDesMoines
Ted Talk by Nancy Berns, sociologist at Drake University. She talks about the fallacy of needing closure in the context of a death and grief. Seeking closure may actually be harmful if you think that you need to box off the grief and ignore it in the future. It is better to learn to walk with grief and joy simultaneously. Pretty good.
3. Healing Our Losses
Steph Hietbrink (Third Reformed Church) shares on 2 Nov 2014 at a night of healing. The focus deals with learning to mourn and grieve.