A Wise Death


To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go. ~Mary Oliver

My dad died a few years ago. As I sat by his bedside during the dying process, I found myself amazed at the raw sacredness of accompanying a beloved on his death journey.  We sang Amazing Grace, played music he loved, sat quiet vigil, and anointed him with sacred herbs. I listened to his visions of people greeting him from the other side. I discovered a still pond within myself to be a calm, loving presence and companion. I was honored and humbled to be part of that time for him.

We will all someday be on this journey of dying and accompanying loved ones as they transition. It is one sure thing!   As I contemplated this, I decided I wanted to learn more to be of service to my friends, family and community as an End of Life Doula (EOLD). In May of 2020, I earned my EOLD certificate from the University of Vermont School of Medicine. This study has immersed me in the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of the death and dying process.

I begin with unconditional positive regard supporting your wishes for this sacred journey.   Our first step together is for me to listen to your wishes and describe for you what I am chidago paintbrush smallerable to offer to bring that vision of your good death to fruition. I have listed below some things I can offer, but in our initial consultation we will discover what you most desire which may have nothing to do with what’s listed below. And that is wonderful.

All of the offerings are currently available online only or with social distancing during the pandemic.

  • Wise Death & Dying Planning, includes a conversation about values and wishes for the dying process. You don’t need to be near the end of life to create this plan. See link to Death Over Dinner in resources below.
  • Legacy Projects and Dignity Therapy conversations–Offering a simple legacy conversation with you, recorded and transcribed if desired as a keepsake for you, family and friends. Other legacy projects may include coordinating artwork, memory books, letters or journals for loved ones, family recipe cookbook, scrapbook, audio/video for memorial service—depending on your desires.
  • Holding Space, Listening, Planning and Sitting in Sacred Vigil–we will work together to create a plan that surrounds your nearing death journey with things that are sacred to you.
  • Ceremony, Prayer, Meditation
  • Sound/Music–offerings include assistance with creating a playlist of your music that brings you joy and comfort, Qigong Five Organ Sounds for deep emotional healing, Native American healing flute songs from my heart to yours, quiet drumming, Inner Smile meditation. Recordings of any of the above for you included upon request.
  • Comprehensive Local Resources/Directory for all aspects of the death and dying process including local specialists, complementary healing practitioners, and the lesser known green burial and home funeral information. end-of-life-doula-certificate

Contact me for more information regarding scheduling, costs, etc.

Resources (More)

Advance Directive Form for California (from Stanford University)
Advance Directive and Dementia  Thought provoking discussion, an excerpt from “The Art of Dying Well: A Practical Guide to a Good End of Life,” by Katy Butler.
Advance Directive for Conscious Dying  Next step for those wishing to embrace dying as a spiritual passage for themselves and for their loved ones. It is not meant to be a legal or medical document.
Dartmouth Dementia Directive (as a supplement to the regular advance directive)

Green Burial Council
Green Burial in the Eastern SIerra
Home Funeral Information

The Letter Project (Stanford University)–The Letter Project is intended to help people from various backgrounds write a simple letter to their doctor and their loved ones about their values and life goals, what matters most and who matters most. This site also includes templates for advanced directives, life review, and bucket list explorations.

Preparing for a Graceful Death, BJ Miller MD (Ted Talk)

The Lessons of Death, Sam Harris Podcast with Frank Ostaseski (a Buddhist teacher, international lecturer and a leading voice in end-of-life care. In 1987, he co-founded of the Zen Hospice Project, the first Buddhist hospice in America.)

The Conversation Project.  92% of people say that talking to their loved ones about end of life care is important. 32% have actually done so. These online templates will get you started.
Death Over Dinner.  An interactive adventure that transforms a difficult subject into one of insight and empowerment.

Interfaith Ceremonies for Death at a Distance, especially developed for these pandemic times by online seminarians in the Iliff School of Theology’s Journey Program.

Dying is not as bad as you think—beautiful, comforting, 4 minute talk by a Palliative care MD re the dying process

Books: Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End. Atul Gawande
Knocking on Heaven’s Door, The Path to A Better Way of Death. Katy Butler

Podcast: The Art of Dying Well

The dead are not distant or absent. They are alongside us. When we lose someone to death, we lose their physical image and presence, they slip out of visible form into invisible presence. This alteration of form is the reason we cannot see the dead. But because we cannot see them does not mean that they are not there. Transfigured into eternal form, the dead cannot reverse the journey and even for one second re-enter their old form to linger with us a while. Though they cannot reappear, they continue to be near us and part of the healing of grief is the refinement of our hearts whereby we come to sense their loving nearness. When we ourselves enter the eternal world and come to see our lives on earth in full view, we may be surprised at the immense assistance and support with which our departed loved ones have accompanied every moment of our lives. In their new, transfigured presence their compassion, understanding and love take on a divine depth, enabling them to become secret angels guiding and sheltering the unfolding of our destiny.
John O’Donohue Excerpt from BEAUTY