A guidebook to becoming comfortable with death ahead of its actual occurrence.
Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgård wrote movingly of humanity's insistence on acknowledging death only peripherally, if at all. We have entire systems of commerce and spirituality designed to make death as abstract as possible, to prevent anyone needing to see a corpse or face their own mortality. The actions that are undertaken prior to death are primarily focused on gathering loose ends for the soon-to-be-deceased, and those who are left behind gain little from the experience except slight insight into the logistics of death. Jewish Federation of Greater Washington scholar-in-residence Brown (Return: Daily Inspiration for the Days of Awe, 2012, etc.) offers reflections gained from people operating outside of that cycle, who have found ways to integrate an understanding of our finite lives into what seems so abstract. The initial chapters address insights into the business of death and how we integrate the idea of an afterlife into everyday life. From there, the author goes deeper into considering those things we automatically, unconsciously look away from—how we view the different choices we encounter in regards to what happens to the body, both before death, with assisted suicide, and after death, with cremation, "natural burials" and other variations. Brown writes expansively about the long, dark night we all must eventually face, sharing stories from her own reflections as well as those of others who chose not to turn away when faced with their own mortalities. In an appendix, the author examines how to write an “ethical will” and what information to include.
The answers these people have earned are by no means applicable to every reader, but their questions, and how they wrestle with them, provide a great deal of insight.