Why you should get ready to die while you live -a book review

“The reason obituaries are so dull to read is that they are so dull to write and that’s precisely why I’m writing my own: To save my family the drudgery in an otherwise stressful time.”

Besides attending church on Sundays, I routinely read the local Sunday newspaper. I never miss the comics, Ask Amy advice column, restaurant reviews, and the obituaries. Sometimes I find an obit of someone I know or know of. But even if I don’t, I usually read one or two.

Sometimes the person’s life is so remarkable I’m surprised I’d never heard of them. Sometimes it’s so intriguing I wish I had known them. That is the case with a recent one, particularly because it was written by the deceased man himself.

I’m sharing this obituary with you with names deleted to protect privacy and some sections paraphrased. I think you will agree this is a man worth knowing.

David B.

“The reason obituaries are so dull to read is that they are so dull to write and that’s precisely why I’m writing my own: To save my family the drudgery in an otherwise stressful time. Following the standard format of obits I’ll start with I was born in 1948. I enjoyed being an only child until my two sisters came along. After that I learned to be an only child with two sisters.

I have to stop here and mention that when my kidneys failed in my forties, my youngest sister unselfishly agreed to transplant one of hers. When it came time much later for another transplant my older sister conveniently developed cancer rendering her ineligible. Fortunately our son jumped at the chance and eagerly agreed to step up for which I was profoundly grateful.”

After high school he “moved on to blast my way through a five year architectural degree in only seven years.” He co-founded an architectural firm which grew into one of the ten largest firms in the U.S. for several years.

“I’m kind of proud of that.”

Following retirement he served as Vice-President of the national board of the American Kidney Fund as well as President of the local chapter. He was President of the state chapter of an architects institute and served on the boards of local arts commissions.

“There is some other stuff but these are the highlights.”

He admitted that the best thing he did was marrying his wife.

“I loved her dearly. She was my lover, partner, confidant and best friend. If not for her, I would have been writing this many years earlier.”

Together they had two wonderful daughters. One is a physcian and the other “spends most of her time helping keep women out of prison”. About his son he pined , “He has yet to have any kids which is regrettable because the gene pool would be greatly improved by his contribution.”

“I guess all that’s left is to say goodbye to the many friends I’ve made over the last seven decades. I’ve kept up with some but lost track of many. Suffice to say that if I wasn’t dead, I’d miss them all.”

Not surprisingly, he requested that in lieu of flowers friends consider donations to two local non-profits-a soup kitchen/food bank and an organization that helps children of incarcerated parents.

assemble a "when I die" file
a screenshot from the book

How to prepare for the end

I suspect that David prepared for death in other ways besides writing his obituary. He probably wrote a will, arranged burial or cremation, and closed his social media accounts. He likely had a living will or health care proxy. He sounds like a man who navigated his life well and managed his death equally well.

Planning for death seems straight forward but there are numerous details that most of us will miss without help. That’s why I reviewed and recommend a book that walks us through the process.

The book consists of 5 sections that mimic the progression from life to illness to death. Even as a physician, I was surprised at the claim that only 10% to 20% of us will die without warning. The rest of us will know we have something that will likely take our life. And even if we don’t, we all know we will die eventually, although we tend to think and act as if it’s a well kept secret, and maybe it is. The sections are

  • PLANNING AHEAD
  • DEALING WITH ILLNESS
  • HELP ALONG THE WAY
  • WHEN DEATH IS CLOSE
  • AFTER
Hazards of caregiving

Chapter titles offer discussion about issues such as

  • Yes, There’s Paperwork.
  • Can I Afford to Die?
  • I’m Sick
  • Love, Sex, and Relationships
  • Hospital Hacks
  • Care for the Caregiver
  • It’s Your Body and Your Funeral
  • Grief
  • How to write a Eulogy and an Obituary
  • Celebrating a Life
REmember me-collections and keepsakes
I think David’s family has many precious memories of his life.

We should all read this book

As much as I hope you don’t need it right now, unfortunately you do need it right now. So whatever stage of living, or dying, you or a loved one may be in, you will find something helpful here.

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exploring the HEART of life and death

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Dr Aletha

Wrestling with the challenge of evil

Where is God when evil seems to triumph? How can we pray, what can we pray when God seems powerless? Theologians have struggled with these questions for centuries, but there are no neat answers.

updated March 5, 2022

In his Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter 6 , Jesus taught,

“This, then, is how you should pray:

Our Father in heaven,hallowed be your name,
 your kingdom come,your will be done,on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
 And forgive us as we also have forgiven our debtors.
 And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.
artwork photographed by Dr. Aletha

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

The Practice of Prayer

by Margaret Guenther

By the time I found this book, the author, Margaret Guenther had already passed away, December 11, 2016, at 87 years old. Among other roles, she was the Assistant Rector of St. Columba Episcopal Church in Washington, DC. She had served as a spiritual director and retreat leader, but the only position that touched on medicine was as a volunteer at a home for unwed mothers.

In this little book, she used her theological education as well as her personal life experience to address practical questions that everyone has, Christian or otherwise-like this one, the question of why evil exists.

Writing in The Practice of Prayer, Episcopal priest Margaret Guenther says

“I have great respect for evil and become uncomfortable when we trivialize and try to domesticate it, or even turn it into entertainment via mediocre movies. Most simply put, it is manifested in consistent, conscious choices made in diametrical oposition to the God of love.

Where is God when evil seems to triumph? How can we pray, what can we pray when God seems powerless? Theologians have struggled with these questions for centuries, but there are no neat answers.

Ultimately, we are left with Job, baffled yet willing to let God be God. (Job, a Bible character who suffered multiple undeserved tragedies.)

The question of evil will not go away that simply. We are supposed to be praying and, quite possibly wrestling as well- with our questions, with our doubts, with God. ”

Evil, whether in the actions of an individual or in the behavior of whole nations, is a challenge to our prayer.

Margaret Guenther. from the book

Are you praying for the world’s deliverance from evil?

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Thanks for joining me to consider the Lord’s Prayer and Rev. Guenther’s teaching. I hope to share more from her so please come back. I invite you to

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