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07 July 2005 @ 06:25 am
Preparing for Death  
Ok, I woke up and couldn't get back to sleep, hence the multiple entries today. One of the things I had intended to include here is my growing list of resources for those contemplating their mortality, whether in general or in response to illness. Here is a copy of a post in my forum that gives some of the books and tapes I have found helpful--please feel free to add to the list in comments, I am always looking for more. Here is the post:

Our task is to figure out how to live with a more imminent sense of death and not let it terrify us to the point that we have no quality of life.

I have been reading a number of books that have been helpful to me, trying to develop a more positive attitude towards death. Three of the best have been:

Winona's Web: A Novel of Discovery by Priscilla Cogan...A psycotherapist treats a Native American woman who has decided that she is ready to die soon--by natural causes. The therapist ends up learning from her about the purpose of life and what may lie beyond. A very affirming book, most comforting when I was in the hospital.

The Radiant Coat: Myths and Stories About the Crossing Between Life and Death An audiocassette by Clarrisa Pinkola Estes from Sounds True Recordings, 735 Walnut St, Boulder CO 80302 (All of her work is excellent) Again, very comforting. I absolutely love this and have listened to it over and over again.

Death: The Final Stage of Growth edited by Elisabeth Kubler Ross, MD A collection of essays about death

Also useful for information about the physical changes that happen from different kinds of death:

How We Die: Reflections on Life's Final Chapter by Sherwin B Nuland I wouldn't call this comforting, but it is informative and he has a whole section on heart disease. What was comforting was a description of sudden cardiac arrest. If one has to die of heart disease, that's the way to go!

Another great book, although geared to cancer patients, but deals a lot with how to live with impending death while you are trying to live, and accept both (and also a lot about how couples deal with terminal illness):

Grace and Grit: Spirituality and Healing in the Life and Death of Treya Killam Wilber by Ken Wilber, Shambala Books

I also find it helpful to attend to my spiritual life. While that may not be helpful to those of you who are athiests, I think a non-religious practice that's meditative in nature can be helpful to anyone. Consider it stress reduction. Or even spending time in nature can help you feel connected to something larger than yourself and your individual struggle with illness.

Recently added:

Advice on Dying by His Holiness The Dalai Lama, and The Pagan Book of Living and Dying: Practical Rituals, Prayers, Blessings, and Meditations on Crossing Over by Starhawk and M. Macha NightMare. This last book has some really beautiful poetry that can be appreciated in a non-denominational, universal way. One of the phrases I remember vividly is "You go from love into love."

Graceful Passages: A companion for living and dying. 2 CD set in the "Wisdom of the World" series from Companion Arts, PO Box 2528, Novato, CA 94948-2528 It contains music with spoken prayers and messages that encourage a positive death experience from a multi-faith perspective. There is a companion booklet with the transcript of the spoken pieces. Very soothing and I highly recommend it for anyone nearing death.
____

From my own spiritual perspective, one's consciousness at the time of death is very important to a positive crossing and the possibility of achieving self realization. I see death as something that requires my thoughtful preparation and participation. So if I sometimes seem preoccupied with it, it is a means to a more positive ending, and what I see as the culmination of a lifetime of spiritual effort.

Blessed be--

Tapati
 
 
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