“in lieu of flowers”- books to help us die with dignity

Unfortunately, death can be complicated. For some of us, a life-threatening or terminal health situation forces us to face death and if we’re wise, to prepare ourselves and our family . In other cases, unprepared families are left to deal with it while also grieving.

Call me weird, but I enjoy reading obituaries because I enjoy learning about people. Some obits revel in listing the person’s achievements-education degrees, military service medals, business positions, public and volunteer service recognition;descriptions of  exotic travel, unique hobbies, special interests, creative pursuits and talents. 

One of my favorite obits was different; simple, yet revealing a wealth of information about a man known simply as Jim (edited slightly for privacy) 

“Jim, who died at 90 years old, was born on Valentine’s Day. He grew up on a farm,  joined the Army, and  went to a state teacher’s college on the GI Bill.

There he met his wife, and they had 2 children and 5 grandchildren. He earned a master’s degree and spent his professional life as a teacher of math, science, and social studies to elementary students. After retirement, he continued working as a tutor. 

Jim enjoyed backyard gardening, walking to the library, math problems, weather reports and local high school sports. Jim always put the needs of others before himself. 

In lieu of flowers please plant a flower, a tree, or even a vegetable garden. Jim would really like that.”

Despite his obituary’s simplicity, I feel like I knew Jim, he was someone I would have liked, even having as a neighbor. Obits don’t have to be complicated and fancy, and neither does life, if Jim is any proof. 

Unfortunately, death can be complicated. For some of us, a life-threatening or terminal health situation forces us to face death and if we’re wise, to prepare ourselves and our family . In other cases, unprepared families are left to deal with it while also grieving.

I have reviewed these two books that help us and our families make dying and death less arduous than it inevitably is. They cover the practical, financial, and social aspects of dying, as well as the medical, emotional, and spiritual aspects. Read them before you need them-because we all need them eventually. 

Dying with Ease- a book review

Dr. Spiess doesn’t suggest that confronted with terminal illness we refuse treatment and give up. He advocates thinking about and planning for the dying process long before we develop an illness that might be fatal.

Keep reading

exploring the HEART of health

(This post and the ones linked to contain affiliate links that may pay a small commission to this blog, while you pay nothing extra. Quite a deal. )


Dr. Aletha

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Most viewed post #3- To Joey, With Love- a movie review

The 3rd most viewed post on my blog this year, about a love story #ToJoeyWithLove#RoryFeek

I’m pleased this post was so popular because it is such a touching story of love and commitment, something we need to hear more about. My thanks to Rory Feek for continuing to share his journey with his words and his music.

To Joey, With Love

A Story of Life, Love, and Hope That Never Dies

90 minutes , with Spanish and English subtitles for the hearing impaired

Provident Films 2016

(affiliate links used in this post)

To Joey, with Love is the intimate, authentic, and transparent story of a couple who met head on two of life’s most difficult challenges- a special needs child and a terminal illness. Rory produced the film because he believed their story needed to be remembered, documented and shared.

To Joey, With Love- A Story of LIfe, Love and Hope That Never Dies
To Joey, With Love- A Story of LIfe, Love and Hope That Never Dies The story of Joey and Rory Feek

Joey and Rory Feek had a successful career as a country music singing duo and a happy 12 year marriage when they decided to take a year off to have a baby. For many years Joey had been afraid to have a baby,fearing she would not be a good mother.

Her pregnancy progressed normally and culminated in a planned at home birth attended by a midwife.Sudden complications forced a trip to a hospital where both mother and baby were stabilized and in no immediate danger.

Unfortunately, the doctors and nurses told Joey and Rory that their much anticipated child had a problem- their new baby girl had Trisomy 21, also known as Down syndrome.

Indie’s challenge- Down Syndrome

People with Down syndrome have an increased risk for certain medical conditions-

  • congenital heart defects,
  • respiratory and hearing problems,
  • Alzheimer’s disease,
  • childhood leukemia and
  • thyroid conditions.

Many of these conditions are now treatable, so most people with Down syndrome lead healthy lives.

Here are more  Down Syndrome Facts

Trisomy 21 chromosomes
Children with Down Syndrome have an extra chromosome, number 21 (see arrow) Diagram courtesy of Dr. Clark Heath of the CDC

Joey’s challenge-Cervical cancer

A few months after their baby Indiana’s birth, Joey  faced the recurrence of cervical cancer diagnosed and treated years before. Despite more surgery, radiation and chemo the cancer persisted until further treatments were futile and and likely to cause more suffering. Joey decided to leave their Nashville farm,her horses, chickens and gardens, to move home to Indiana to spend her remaining time with her extended family.

Faced with the persistence of the cancer

“Joey decided to come home-not to die, but to live.”

Cervical cancer is cancer that starts in the cervix, the narrow opening into the uterus from the vagina. More than 12,000 women in the United States will be diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, and more than 4,000 of women will die.

Cervical cancer is the second most common type of cancer for women worldwide, but because it develops over time, it is also one of the most preventable types of cancer since the widespread use of the Pap test to detect cervical abnormalities leads to early treatment.

Cancer of the cervix tends to occur during midlife. Half of the women diagnosed with the disease are between 35 and 55 years of age. It rarely affects women under age 20, and approximately 20 percent of diagnoses are women older than 65. Women should ask their doctor how often and for how long they should continue having Pap smears.

The National Cervical Cancer Coalition provides this overview of cervical cancer treatment. overview of cervical cancer treatment

Get the Inside Knowledge about gynecologic cancer.

In 2014 Rory Feek started sharing their lives in a blog and on Facebook which is where I first learned about them. In his “About” ,  Rory writes

“My name is Rory. I want to live a great story. I want to be a better man. I film. I write. I show up. God does the rest…”

Rory kept writing. Eventually, he shared the entire story on the blog, which also lead to his book by the same name, and eventually the movie.

This LIfe I LIve by Rory Feek
This LIfe I Live One man’s extraordinary, ordinary life and THE WOMAN WHO CHANGED IT FOREVER

This Life I Live: One Man’s Extraordinary, Ordinary Life, and the Woman Who Changed It Forever 

“In This Life I Live, Rory Feek helps us not only to connect more fully to his and Joey’s story but also to our own journeys. He shows what can happen when we are fully open in life’s key moments, whether when meeting our life companion or tackling an unexpected tragedy. He also gives never-before-revealed details on their life together and what he calls “the long goodbye,” the blessing of being able to know that life is going to end and taking advantage of it. Rory shows how we are all actually there already and how we can learn to live that way every day.” (Amazon review)

Here is a link to a book excerpt-



And now as a single dad, raising their daughter Indie alone, Rory continues to blog at This Life I Live.

Although I cried throughout ,  I’m glad I watched To Joey, With Love, and recommend it to you, as well as Rory’s book. Follow him at his blog and on Facebook.


Movie, book, and music also available at
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Please share with your friends and join me  for the year’s 2nd  most viewed post

Follow Watercress Words as we explore the HEART of HEALTH. 


Thanks for your time and interest.

Dr. Aletha 

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