We had a wonderful gathering at Anne’s home on September 12. Seventeen people were present to share a heckuva lot of death- and grief-related books that have touched their lives and hearts. I’ve made an attempt to sort them into categories this year. Not sure how well I did, though. Enjoy!
- From Here to Eternity, Caitlin Doughty. “World tour” of death practices. Observations of death detachment in US vs. participation in the rest of the world.
- Notes about cremation: in other cultures where cremation rates are high, families/communities are more involved. Is increasing awareness of witness cremation part of our work?
- Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, Caitlin Doughty. Good introduction to the topic. Accessible.
- Being Dead, Jim Crace. Novel about murdered couple whose bodies aren’t found for over a week; weaves in updates on what’s happening with the bodies.
Lessons For the Dying
- The Grace in Dying, Kathleen Dowling Singh. Framework to help understand the constant transformations of life
- Living with Cancer: A Step-by-Step Guide for Coping Medically and Emotionally with a Serious Diagnosis, Vicki Jackson, David Ryan, & Michelle Seaton
- Life Lessons: Two Experts on Death & Dying Teach Us About the Mysteries of Life & Living, David Kessler & Elizabeth Kubler Ross. A wide array of topics in life, death, and relationships.
- The Five Invitations: Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully, Frank Ostaseski. One of the founders of the Zen hospice movement. Looks at death for all, not just the “actively” dying.
- Life After the Diagnosis: Expert Advice of Living Well with Serious Illness for Patients and Caregivers, Steven Pantilat. How to talk to doctors and ask the right questions
- Making Friends with Death: A Field Guide for Your Impending Last Breath (To Be Read, Ideally, Before It’s Imminent!), Laura Pritchett. A lighter-hearted guide to death and dying.
Lessons for Caregivers and Other Beloveds
Memoirs and Personal Accounts
- Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?Roz Chast. Sometimes painful, but incredibly honest and important, graphic memoir about Chast’s parents’ physical and mental decline and eventual deaths. Could be a manual on how not to approach death and dying.
- Laughing in a Waterfall, Marianne Dietzel. The story of her late daughter Nina’s life, including the efforts of the Waldorf community after Nina’s death
- Let the Whole Thundering World Come Home, Natalie Goldberg. Goldberg and her partner on parallel cancer journeys
- Living Consciously, Dying Gracefully – A Journey with Cancer and Beyond, Nancy Manahan and Becky Bohan. The story of their sister-in-law’s intentional journey with cancer.
- The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying, Nina Riggs. Author’s chronicle of her diagnosis and journey with breast cancer.
- Choosing to Die: A Personal Story, Phyllis Shachter. Schacter’s experience with her husband’s VSED (voluntary stopping eating drinking) at end of life
- Caravan of No Despair: A Memoir of Loss and Transformation, Mirabai Starr. Author’s personal journey through grief
- Death, et seq.Interviews about all aspects of death in US culture
- GeriPal: Geriatric palliative care physicians
- Kaddish: Rituals for death from around the world
Hi, all. Eli here with a list of books, articles, films, podcasts, and ideas shared at the September Excitement Swap!
This year we heard so many amazing suggestions, in so many different media, that I’ve broken them into categories. Entries are arranged alphabetically by title (my apologies to librarians and library-lovers). When possible, I have included the sharer’s name and any commentary they offered on the work. Caveat lector: I am but one fallible mortal who was trying to keep up with a delightfully lively discussion, so there’s a very real possibility that I missed things. If you see errors or omissions, please let me know!
MTN Twin Cities Meeting, September 19, 2017
Book, Article, and Idea Share
Anne Murphy’s home (thank you, Anne)
Notes taken by Eli
Opening: “Epitaph” by Merritt Malloy
- Allison’s Gift, Pat Hogan. Tells the story of the death of Alison Sanders, daughter of Beth Knox, one of the early pioneers of the family-directed death movement. (Nancy)
- A Bridge for Grandma, Carol McCormick, illus. Marie Olofsdotter. Children’s book about a young girl who has a near-death experience in the hospital and meets her dead grandmother. (Nancy)
- Caring for the Dying, Henry Fersko-Weiss (founder of The International End of Life Doula Association [INELDA]) (Wendy)
- Dying: A Memoir, Cory Taylor. A personal looks at the end of life. (Wendy)
- The End of Life Advisor, Susan Dolan & Audrey Vizzard. Dolan and Vizzard are a mother-daughter hospice team. The book focuses on practical matters regarding death. (Nancy)
- Entering the Healing Ground: Grief, Ritual and the Soul of the World, Francis Weller. Personal grief and planetary grief. (Anne M)
- Extreme Measures, Jessica Nutik Zitter (Karen G)
- Final Gifts, Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelley (Karen G)
- The Five Invitations, Frank Ostaseski. One of the founders of the Zen hospice movement. Looks at death for all, not just the “actively” dying. (Kyoko)
- From Here to Eternity, Caitlin Doughty (October release) (Cindy)
- The Grace in Dying, Kathleen Dowling Singh (Ellen)
- The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot
- Laughing in a Waterfall, Marianne Dietzel. This book is gripping. The way the school community come together for the home vigil is amazing. Marianne explores every dimension of why that’s so powerful. (Nancy)
- Live Consciously, Dying Gracefully, Nancy Manahan & Beck Bohan. The story of the death and dying of Diane Manahan. (Nancy)
- The Long Goodbye, Megan O’Rourke. Poetry about her mother’s death from colon cancer (Elizabeth)
- Preparing to Die: Practical Advice and Spiritual Wisdom from the Tibetan Buddhist Tradition, Andrew Holecek (Kyoko)
- The Smell of Rain on Dust: Grief and Praise. Martín Prechtel. (Anne M)
- What Really Matters: 7 Lessons for Living from the Stories of the Dying, Karen Wyatt
- When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalanithi. Neurosurgeon with lung cancer chronicles his journey toward death. (Kyoko)
PODCASTS and OTHER AUDIO
- Stay With Me Awhile Mary Johnson & Barbara Means Fraser. Rochester Civic in February. Karen G. will be coordinating an MTN group trip to this event.
- What is the connection between mainstream fear of/separation from death and the hatred, violence, and oppression we are living in now? (Eli)
- Can we meet hatred with love? How? (originally posed by Carolyn Laine; relayed by Eli)
- Are people being given the choice of not having morphine and experiencing the pain at end of life? (Marianne)
- Palliative and sedation. Are we as healthcare agents and other end-of-life tenders listening well enough to advocate for what the dying person truly wants? (Kathy)
MISCELLANEOUS NOTES & ANNOUNCEMENTS
- Kyoko is creating a chapbook based on her experiences with death, grief, and healing in the last months of her husband’s life. She will share more information when it’s available.
- Karen G. has started giving talks on facing our mortality. The next one is at Sunday, November 19, 1-5 p.m., at Wellsprings Farm in Annandale. Contact Karen for more information.
Join MTN Twin Cities for our annual reading information exchange: with a twist. Bring a book, article, or burning question that’s got you fired up and thinking about death and dying issues in new ways, even if it’s not directly related (though of course we love hearing about those, too). For instance, some questions we’ve been asking include: How do we fight hate with love? How might our culture’s fear and avoidance of death feed the acts of hate and oppression that have recently been committed in this country, and what can we do to change it?
We’ll each talk briefly about our materials and ideas and then use all of that excitement to help determine MTN TC’s direction for the coming year.
Our passions pull us in many directions. We embrace that complexity and look forward to seeing where it leads us.
The meeting will be held on Tuesday, September 19, 2017, at 7:00 pm. We will meet at the home of Anne Murphy, 287 Mount Curve Blvd, St. Paul 55105. MTN TC meetings are free and open to the public.
The September Twin Cities meeting was our 2nd annual book share, and here are the books we shared. Books are listed alphabetically by title. Where I’d put it in my notes, I’ve included who recommended which book and added their comments, so you can ask us about them later. -Eli
- Alison’s Gift, Pat Hogan.
- Caravan of No Despair, Mirabai Starr. Talks about her grief process after her daughter’s death. (Kyoko)
- Coming to Rest: A Guide to Caring for Our Own Dead, Julie Wiskind and Richard Spiegel (“The guy who made it up as he went”). Also contains several beautiful poems. (Karen Z)
- Die Wise: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul, Stephen Jenkinson (Griefwalker). Nancy isn’t sure if she liked it or not, but she was shocked, surprised, awed, baffled, and annoyed. She thinks it’s brilliant. A lot of hand gestures were involved. Hypercritical of medical establishment, hospice, & palliative care. Alternative vision of how to die. (Nancy, and also Dawn, who calls it an “interesting” read)
- The Grace in Dying, Kathleen Dowling Singh
- Greening Death, Suzanne Kelly. Becoming at one with the earth. Body-based and Earth-connected. Great quotes. (Anne A is very excited about this book). “Imagine the body as a great feast going back to the Earth.” Politics of green burial advocacy movement, how it’s connected to home funeral/home vigil community & FCA. Privilege/racism/economic accessibility issues around green burial movement, commodification of green death. (Anne A.)
- The Pagan Book of Living and Dying, Starhawk and the Reclaiming Collective. As far as we know, the only book dedicated to death and dying from the neo-Pagan perspective. The source of the body blessing in Passing Through Our Hands (unexpurgated version) (Eli)
- Penroe: In Another Field Without Time, Penny Bosselman (penroe.net)
- Stiff, Mary Roach. Getting popular with teenagers. (Jean)
- The Tao of Death, Karen Wyatt. Based in I Ching. If we’re reading about death, we’re working with our thinking. Brand new! (Linda)
- What Lasts Is the Breath, poems by Janet Eigner; illustrations by Steven Counsell. Poetry and art (Linda)
- What Really Matters: 7 Lessons for Living from the Stories of the Dying, Karen Wyatt. (Karen G)
- When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalanithi. Neurosurgeon with lung cancer chronicles his journey toward death. (Linda)
What are your favorite books on death and dying? Bring one of yours, briefly describe it, and/or read a passage (two minutes max). Or just come and hear about other people’s favorite death and dying books. You will leave with a great reading list for this winter!
At the end of the meeting, maybe folks would like to swap books.
Date and time: Tuesday, September 13, 2016 at 7:00-9:00 p.m. Location: 21 Rustic Lodge Ave. East., Minneapolis 55419 Contact phone: 612-823-1910 (In case GPS directs you to the wrong side of Nicollet Av. it’s 1/2 block EAST, not west, off of Nicollet Avenue)
Free and open to all!
We had 14 people at our September meeting and recommended many books to each other. When folks had comments on a book, I tried to include those, but some books were mentioned only in passing, with no commentary. Links go directly to the author or book website where possible and to amazon.com otherwise.
- Alison’s Gift, Pat Hogan. The story of the death of Alison Sanders, daughter of Crossings founder Elizabeth Knox, and how it helped spark radical changes in how Americans approach care of the dead.
- The American Way of Death, Jessica Mitford. First published in 1963 (an updated version, The American Way of Death Revisited, was published in 1998), Mitford’s book was the first book-length exposé of the American funeral industry and related industries. Cut from the same consumer awareness cloth as Ralph Nader’s Unsafe at Any Speed, Mitford focuses on keeping costs and “frippery” down for the average funeral consumer and has little patience for grief rituals. But there’s no better peek at the excesses of funeral and disposition salesmanship. American Way of Death is funny, relentless, and depressingly relevant, more than 50 years later.
- Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, Atul Gawande. Medical perspective on end-of-life decision-making and how western medicine unnecessarily prolongs life. Not a ton of new material for folks involved in the conscious dying movement, but he writes with authority.
- Being with Dying, Joan Halifax. One Buddhist’s perspective on death and dying.
- The End of Your Life Book Club, Will Schwalbe. A son and his dying mother form a book club together.
- Find the Good, Heather Lende. A book by a newspaper obituary writer.
- Forever Ours, Janis Amatuzio. Former Anoka County coroner writing about spirit communication from the afterlife.
- A Good Goodbye: Funeral Planning for Those Who Don’t Plan to Die, Gail Rubin. Planning help for death rituals. “Just as talking about sex won’t make you pregnant, talking about funerals won’t make you dead.”
- The Grace in Dying, Kathleen Dowling Singh
- The Grace of Ordinary Days, Kay Saunders and Bernie Saunders. A photo/poetry exploration of death
- Healing Into Life and Death; Who Dies? An Investigation of Conscious Living and Conscious Dying; and Unattended Sorrow, Stephen Levine. Levine is a poet and prolific author; some describe reading his books as being a transcendental experience in itself.
- How We Die, Sherwin Nuland
- Knocking on Heaven’s Door, Katy Butler. Explores how medical technology artificially prolongs the quantity of life at the expense of quality of life.
- Living Consciously, Dying Gracefully, Nancy Manahan & Becky Bohan. This book by MTN’s own Nancy and Becky chronicles the conscious dying process of their sister-in-law, Diane Manahan, and the family-directed death care that followed. Many present cite this book as an inspiration for their own journey into this work.
- Living into Dying, Nancy Jewel Poer
- Laughing in a Waterfall, Marianne Dietzl. Another book by an MTN founder, Marianne’s book about her daughter’s life and death–and her own in relation–has also inspired many of us to reconsider where we stand in relation to death.
- No Death, No Fear: Comforting Wisdom for Life, Thich Nhat Hanh. Recommended for anyone working with a dying person who’s struggling to move beyond fear of death.
- The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd. Contains a home vigil scene.
- The Shrouding Woman, Loretta Ellsworth. A middle-grade book about a pre-Civil War family in the business of shrouding, preparing the community’s dead for burial.
- Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: Lessons from the Crematory, Caitlin Doughty. A first-hand look at life behind the scenes of the American cremation trade. Doughty writes with a style that is fast-paced and witty while still being emotionally affecting. She never mocks the dead but encourages readers to confront our fear and denial around death. And be sure to check out Doughty’s always informative and hilarious “Ask a Mortician” videos (also on YouTube).
- Unforgettable: A Son, a Mother, and the Lessons of a Lifetime, Scott Simon. Stories about his mother’s death & the conversations they had leading up to it.
- We Know How This Ends: Living while Dying, Bruce Kramer & Kathy Wurzer. After Kramer was diagnosed with ALS, he chose to document his dying process and the insights and experiences he had along the way.
- The Wind Blows, the Ice Breaks, Ted Bowman and Elizabeth Bourque Johnson, editors. Poems of loss and renewal by Minnesota poets.