Next week, on Ash Wednesday, we will do what we always do on that day – talk about the truth that we all are going to die.  That hard reality is one we’d rather avoid.  And yet, here we are, reeling with 468,000 deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S., and with 2.35 million deaths worldwide (as of 2/10/2021).  This year, it’s unavoidable.

This year, in preparation for this Ash Wednesday, and for the six weeks of Lent that follow, let’s face our mortality together, as a community of faith, trusting that we belong to God.  As a companion, let’s read author Katy Butler’s honest, achingly beautiful book, The Art of Dying Well: A Practical Guide to a Good End of Life.

Anyone who has parents, grandparents, or siblings over 60 will benefit from her practical ideas.  And anyone who is over 60 themselves will discover wisdom for their own journey of aging.  For instance, about Advanced Directives:


Nothing could be kinder to people who love you than to give them clear guidance for the hardest decisions they may ever have to make.  And little could be more empowering than protecting yourself from unwanted medical treatments that now, far too often, dehumanize modern death (p. 25).


Butler covers medical, practical, financial and spiritual topics, woven together into:


a step-by-step guide to remaining as healthy and happy as possible, and as medically informed and unafraid, through the predictable health stages of later life, from vigorous old age to final breath (p. 8).


Butler names her chapters Resilience, Slowing Down, Adaptation, Awareness of Mortality, House of Cards, Preparing for a Good Death, and Active Dying.  At the end she includes a much-needed glossary of medical terms to help us better interpret what doctors are trying to tell us.  Butler’s goal is to make death bearable, shared and even, in its own way, beautiful.


These days, many of us may be more concerned about developing dementia than dying.  Butler’s letter amending her advanced directive describes her practical understanding of comfort care.  Its detail is worth considering (pp. 127-129).


In a few months my mother will turn 85.  She lives on the west coast.  I hope and pray I’ll be able to see her again, safely.  In the meantime, Butler’s book has given me conversation points and renewed awareness of the importance of living intentionally and expanding our sense of ‘family’.  In other words, this book is helping me, personally, and in relationship to others.  I commend it to you and those you love.


Do you, your parents and grandparents have advanced directives in place?

What does ‘a good death’ mean to you?


-Written by Ann Palmerton



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  1. Linda Van Meter February 10, 2021 at 1:07 pm - Reply

    Thank You Ann, For your wise words and book suggestions. My Parents did some pre-planning and that did help my family. I pray that You do get to visit with your Mother in person, thank you for all You do for us and the church.

    • Ann February 10, 2021 at 3:04 pm - Reply

      Linda, thank you for your kind words and prayers of support. I’m glad to hear that your parents did some pre-planning. I think it’s important for all of us to do, no matter our age. I’m glad to talk further at a time good for you.

  2. Rosemary Tolliver February 10, 2021 at 1:25 pm - Reply

    As I read this blog entry, Ann, I could hear your voice saying, “In life and in death, we belong to God” and I always feel reassured by that reminder.
    I’ve been reading Diane Rehm’s book, When My Time Comes, and I just put a hold on the book you recommended by Katy Butler. Thank you.

    • Ann February 10, 2021 at 3:10 pm - Reply

      I appreciate you commenting as you have. And thanks for mentioning When My Time Comes. I’ve just put a hold on Diane Rehm’s book!

  3. Linda Pratt February 10, 2021 at 1:55 pm - Reply

    Thank you Ann for this informative, caring blog. Sounds like a important read. Can never be to prepared for the end, as respects comfort care and helping family with the process. Stay well.

  4. Ann February 10, 2021 at 3:15 pm - Reply

    Linda, it’s great to hear your voice in this way! I’m remembering your mom as I type. She was a great lady, and you were so present for her, to her last breath. Peace to you this day.

  5. Sharon walters February 11, 2021 at 12:42 pm - Reply

    A good reminder of things you want to do for those you love before it’s too late.

    • Ann February 20, 2021 at 11:33 am - Reply


  6. Alison J Barret February 11, 2021 at 3:12 pm - Reply

    This is a thoughtful post and I definitely l will get the book. I am so grateful that my parents both believed that talking about and planning for death was natural and practical. Knowing their wishes was a gift for me and my siblings. I tell people all of the time that my Dad was not a romantic, but his love language was to make our home more adaptive to my mom’s needs (she was blind and limited mobility due to Rheumatoid arthritis). Long before my dad got sick, he would sit beside her as she learned to fill her pill bottles, try out his McGuyvered fixes and put a plan in place to get her to the pharmacy and bank. THAT was romantic to me.

  7. Ann February 20, 2021 at 11:37 am - Reply

    Your dad gave you and your siblings a master class in how to put love in action…

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