Posts Tagged ‘death and dying’

Sallie Tisdale: Advice For The Dying

April 6, 2021

     I came across a thoughtful review of this book a few months back; increasingly intrigued, I decided to buy and read it. Death, in particular contemplating the inevitability of my own, and that of those close to me, as we all gradually age, is not an easy topic to face; as a Quaker, I’m nevertheless exhorted to reflect on it by way of trying to be prepared for that moment, as well as to ensure that I do not leave complications behind for others to unravel. Sensible advice, but…

The writer is American; she is a nurse by profession and has spent much time with people who were dying, and with their close family and friends. She writes clearly and thoughtfully and covers pretty much every aspect of death and dying from the perspective of the person who is dying and those who are necessarily involved, participants and bystanders. It is interesting that the book’s title in the USA was ‘Advice for Future Corpses’ whereas in the UK it has been toned down to “Advice for the Dying’, which to me isn’t quite the same thing at all. She has ensured that the resources section in the UK edition is relevant to those of us on this side of the pond; only the chapter on hospices does not ring true for me, as the US version of a hospice death seems to be to get family and friends to do everything at home whilst absolving one’s medical insurance program of needing to do anything much at all; my experience of hospices in the UK is very different, and I have been very impressed with what they will do, if a space is available for the person at the time.

I was conscious of feeling somewhat nervous as I read, not quite skimming at times, but not reading too carefully either, not thinking too much about what I was reading. I was also matching what Tisdale was saying with my existing knowledge and understanding, and trying to feel reassured rather than alarmed. A fair amount of what she said I was familiar with, and felt like good common-sense. I also told myself to come back to the book and re-read it more carefully, soon…

Tisdale ranges widely, and her advice is carefully focused and practical; she deconstructs and reassures, covering every aspect of the lead-up to death, dying, burial or cremation (and some alternatives). She has been a lifelong practising Zen Buddhist, but does not forefront her beliefs, though they do allow her helpful reflections and observations at times. She also included a range of interesting quotations on the subject of death and dying, from a wide range of people through history. It felt like a helpful and compassionate book, definitely not an easy read, sobering as it must be, but also in various ways both helpful and empowering.

I can reassure any readers who may be wondering, that I am currently enjoying good health.

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