ELDER MUSIC: Everything
A TGB READER STORY: The Pier, the Birds and the Moment

Making Dying Part of Living

Two or three or four weeks ago, a reader commented that I should not tell anyone about my terminal cancer diagnosis because I would then be identified only by that fact instead of all the other descriptions that could be said of me.

Two assumptions come with that reasoning: (1) that I care if people know I am dying (I do not) and (2) that dying or, at least, talking about it is taboo.

The second item is all too true. In the U.S., we hide dying from friends, neighbors, co-workers, even family sometimes so that death, when it arrives, is a shock to everyone left behind.

Certainly, everyone who finds him/herself in my position has the right to play it out any way they want. But I think keeping it secret does a disservice to the person, to the people who know and care about him or her and to the culture at large.

It makes the great final act of life too much a mystery and more frightening than it needs to be.

Did you know that only about 20 percent of deaths occur at home? That wasn't always so. Until 100 years ago, give or take, most people died in their own bed surrounded by family and loved ones. When the dying was extended, everyone, including the children, were involved in the caregiving.

When I was kid, about half my friends had one or two grandparents living with them. Some were healthy, some were not and it was not uncommon for a friend to tell me that she couldn't go bike-riding that morning because she was taking care of Gran while her mom was shopping.

An ailing grandparent was such a commonplace that we kids accepted it and, when it sometimes happened, the grandparent's death was – well, part of life which, I believe, is as it should be.

We are born, we live, we die. But we too often omit the third act from view.

It is the dying, rather than death itself, I am concerned with, and I become more convinced every day now, as I live with this death sentence, that it is a gift.

A gift of time that allows me to say the things I always ought to have done but too often have not. Of time to remember. Time to wonder at the great unknown. And time to talk. Oh god, yes. To talk and and talk and talk with those who will do so with me, about everything under the sun.

We are doing that here in these pages and your comments, thoughts and stories are enriching my final days.

Even though I have met only a few of you in person, we've been friends of a certain kind for a long time. Imagine how you would feel if, when the time comes, someone posted a note saying I died yesterday of cancer, and you had known nothing about it until then.

Would you feel betrayed? I think I would. Would you wonder why the disease had been kept a secret? I would. And I think I would feel cheated to be able to leave only a note of condolence rather than having had this wonderful conversation we are carrying on now.

No one wants to die but I cannot see the point in pretending my death is not visible on the horizon. In accepting that, I can surrender to life in full, keep moving forward and be as much in the here and now as humanly possible.

Dying is as much a part of living as birth. We should treat it with as much significance and honor it during every last day we have.


I completely agree and admire how you can express your feelings. Your blog is very important to me (I am 72) both on your feelings about aging and illness and also on your political views. It is a great comfort to know that people like you and your community of bloggers do all your best against Trump. In France we are terribly worried about what that horrible man will say or do.... Ronni, I wish you all the best "bon courage" as we say in Paris

I too so agree with you. If we all could live as if we were under a death sentence (which we are but don't know when), we could really hone in on what's important. I'm so grateful you're willing to share your journey with us.

On a trip to Peru we found that some of the rural folk maintain skulls of family members on their mantles. Though I don't have her skull, I do have my Mom in a box on a shelf in our living room--until we decide where else we want her.

I was thinking the comment was actually not to "lead" with that, not to not tell anyone about it.

Spot on, Ronni!

You're handing us a great, great opportunity here..... to take in, imagine and realize more of ourselves, of life's challenges, and choices. More importantly perhaps is the attitude we will carry forth from this adventure.

With immense gratitude for and to you.

Breathtaking honesty, truth, courage, generosity, wit, brilliance. To think, write, and be anything or anyone else would not be Ronni Bennett whom I have come to "know" since 2003 when I discovered you and TGB. And, yes, staying in the conversation is absolutely sane and wonderful. XO

I could not agree more. I think there is no reason to hide the fact that we are dying, and talking about it helps both the person dying and their friends and families. I think you for your honesty and willingness to share.

Thanks for being an avenue of connection between humans experiencing life an death.

All good points, Ronni, and I am thankful that you are sharing with us. I don't normally share much, and you're right, it infuriates my sisters so I've actually been working on it. When I was growing up my foster parents' mothers both died in bed in their home where the dining room had been transformed into their bedroom. It was part of our lives. To each their own and if you're ever entitled to a choice it should be about your passing.

When I was growing up, my maternal grandmother was the only person I knew who was cared for and died at home. Even the majority of those who had been cared for in someone's home until very close to the end, often were moved to a hospital before dying. That was probably because, as far as I know, hospice care in the U.S. was virtually nonexistent in those days. Without hospice support, I can only imagine that in-home care would often have been very difficult, although I have to say that I did it for nearly two years, caring for my mother-in-law, who lived with extreme dementia. We were fortunate, though, to have been able to arrange for me to move in with her in her house, and have a few hours each week of respite care. She was fortunate to have been physically in very good condition up until the last few months of her life. Because she was so physically strong until those last months, she was found to not qualify for hospice care until what turned out to be the very end. The day after she was assessed as qualifying, two hospice benefits arrived-- a very comfortable bed which was set up in her living room, and a hospice worker who came to help give her a sponge bath on that bed. No medication, no other supplies or equipment. We helped her into that comfy bed, covered her with her mother's quilts, in front of the large picture window and she closed her eyes and never opened them again. It had been a long journey to that day, but she seemed comfortable and content in those last moments and I wish everyone's death could be so peaceful.

Yes, thank you for being open with us about your experience. We learn from you.

I think at least part of the reason people died at home a century ago was there was so little treatment available. My grandfather was admitted to the hospital - this in 1964 - with a heart condition, and they couldn't do anything for him (he was about 83) so they sent him home. Same with my grandmother in the '50s (she was in her 70s) - she had a stroke and they couldn't do anything, so they sent her home, where she died about a year later. Nowadays, both would probably have been treated, and, had complications arisen or treatments failed, they would have died in a hospital.
I've always been grateful that my parents saw fit to take us to the wakes they attended when we were growing up. We must have been very young - when I think of them, I think mostly of the pants of the grown-up men as seen at a toddler's eye-level! But the net effect was that I not only knew people died; I'd seen them dead, and somehow that has been helpful to me ever since. I think it normalized it - made it, as you say, a part of life.

Dear Ronni -- of course you are writing your community into your dying. You've always generously written us into your living and we've all been the better for it. You wouldn't stop now.

Both my parents died at home, as they wanted. I was taught that my job as their daughter was to keep the medical profession from intervening when further life became impossible. Fortunately their neighbors were onboard as well. This wasn't about courage, but about a certain realism. May I find the same realism in my own path forward. You seem to be modeling this, as we say nowadays.

Your insight into aging and the information has been very helpful to me since I found your blog about a year ago. I agree with and appreciate your sharing your experiences of dying, too. My problem is my very healthy 90 year old mother. She is the cliché of the helpless female. She does not handle illness, death or, let's face it, reality well. Her sense of denial is enormous while her fear of everything is insane. My father raised us and charged us with protecting her at all costs. My sister (77) is dying, albeit slowly. It will probably be three to five years. We have not told Mother. It feels wrong for all the right reasons. It is not mine to tell, but I am disturbed. It seems we are betting on Mother to go first, or to be mentally unaware when it happens. There is probably no correct solution, but reading your blog comforts me. At least I know that I am not the only one who prefers and appreciates unvarnished truth. Thank you, pennie

I agree with you. Not everyone would be comfortable being as open as you, but I do like that you value the knowledge and recognize it as a gift. I think being able to see this knowledge that way is a gift. There are things you can do to prepare, letters you can write, conversations you can have. And, of course, there are still blog posts to do!

This is a beautiful PNW day; I hope you are able to enjoy being out.

May you sleep well tonight.

Your honesty and acceptance of your fate is inspiring. If more people were open to sharing this time of living, it would be so much more easy for people who land in your place with time to share with loved ones. Then friends and family would also be more comfortable with sharing your journey instead of feeling uncomfortable with how to talk to you so as not to upset you or themselves.

Much love for you, Ronni.

Approximately 40 years ago, a woman in our church suddenly died. No one, not even her husband knew of her illness. Her doctor knew and was complicit in her deceit. She had worked it out with him as to how to know when the end was very near and so, on the way home from visiting her children in the southern part of the state, she recognized the signs in her body and asked her husband to find a motel to check into. She was dying. In a matter of hours, she was gone.

Everyone who knew her, and there were so many because she was an amazing woman, was devastated. How could she have kept this from everyone? How could she have kept going and doing when she had to have been so ill? She was in her mid-40s, much too young to leave us like that. Couldn't something have been done to save her?

So, yes, I believe you need to share your journey and not shock your friends and family.

Your short Monday's Post contains perhaps the most important lesson I ever learned by reading. Thank you Ronni for precision, curiosity, mindfulness, sobriety.
And thank you for your eloquence.
English is a foreign language for me. Through reading your articles, I even improve my (Swiss-)German.

My best friend's husband died yesterday, after less than 3 days in a hospice. G. was an accomplished guitarist who had studied for 18 years with the same teacher. About two weeks ago, he told his teacher he would be taking some time off from his weekly lesson to "deal with a health issue" but would be back.

When he entered hospice on Friday, my friend called the teacher to tell him G. was dying. The teacher was shocked; he had no idea G. had even been ill.

The teacher drove to the hospice late that afternoon and played at G's bedside for two hours, choosing the songs he loved. His concert was enormously comforting to both my friend and her husband.

My late husband died at home. The day before that, he was intently showing me how to use the TV remote (which I never got my hands on much, not being a TV watcher) and making sure that I knew where important papers were. It was poignant and endearing. He didn't want most people to know that he was dying, although those of us close to him did. He hated the fuss and sympathy. His own family refused to believe he was terminal and were angry at him for "giving up" on treatment which meant I had to keep him protected from their verbal attacks. Now they don't talk to me--perfectly fine since I want nothing to do with them anyway.

I'm glad you brought up how family deaths were handled up until approximately 100 years ago (or less, depending upon where you lived).

In addition, the body of the person stayed in the home (unless there was no room at all) and a family member took turns staying with them, even during the night, until the services and/or burial. In my great-grandfather's home (which was an admittedly grand home), there was a specific room on the ground floor, otherwise known as the sun porch, where the body would "lie in repose".

I think the fact that we become have further and further removed from nature over the years has contributed to the lack of our familiarity (comfort may be too strong a word) with death and dying. However, even though I am an admitted throwback, I can't say it makes me particularly more accepting of my own situation, only of the inevitability.

I appreciate your honesty, Ronni. It is so important for everyone to know the status of our friends. I still wonder about the thinking of a friend of about 20 years who died without letting me know she was so ill, and I wish she had been able to tell me rather than pretending that she was doing all right.

We were a small group of women friends who met for lunch monthly and I knew Christina was ill as she would mention having spent a few days in the hospital with "uncontrolled bleeding". But she would go to the ER and never had a report on her status.

She did not look well the last time we met and had started wearing a wig due to hair loss. When I phoned her to tell her where we were meeting, her daughter told me that she had died a week prior. I felt cheated in not being able to say good bye. Three of us friends attended her funeral but I still felt incomplete and disappointed about her choice of secrecy.

Since we all met initially in order to form a study group for licensure as psychotherapists
it was especially puzzling that this was the way she chose to deal with her end of life issues. It's hard to believe she was in denial but, I suppose, it's a possibility.

You know most of us are afraid of the unknown.

Think for a moment when you are about to enter a lights-out room you haven't been in in a while. Do you take caution (fear) regarding what might be in there? Kids do. Most of us do.

Dying, to me, is like entering into a darkened room - it's unknown what may be lurking in there.

By talking openly about our feelings regarding death and dying it takes some of the uncertainties away. When we were kids our parents did the same by simply talking away the fear.

Ronni is doing the same. We should all listen and offer support - talk and listen. It makes this topic more interesting and a lot easier to deal with.

No more boogeyman in my closet.

In my life, dying seems mostly to have occurred when I was not around. My father died when I was five, he was in the hospital and children were not allowed to be in the room with him. In fact, my sister and I were not even taken to the funeral. Something about "protecting" us, I suspect.

My mother also died in a hospital. At the hospital where my sister and I were born. My sister lived far away; my husband and I were the ones who ended up living with my mother when she could not manage on her own, and the apartment where we otherwise lived was right across the street from that hospital. Nevertheless, we were not present when she died.

And our beloved son Timothy died far away, in Chile, where he was living. We did not know until we were notified. He was 38, a brilliant artist, happiest when he could travel and do his art and perhaps ignore a bit too much that he was afflicted with COPD. He was just 38.

Other relatives died mostly at a great distance from me - many in Germany, including my grandmother in Hamburg, in Germany, whom I got to know and adore during a Fulbright there. The family was spread out all over the place, in the US, in Germany, in Denmark; I never knew when many of them died, they were just gone, and I was never notified.

So -- your post this morning was particularly important to me. I am, when you think about it, unrelated to, through circumstance [or fate?]disconnected from, death and dying. Obviously, that is not true: we all live with death and dying, the inevitability of it. But your clear and absolutely pertinent and perceptive comments today open windows for me. In a way, in your wonderful words, you are educating me. Opening up doors. Giving me knowledge that I appreciate and will remember.

So, yes, more power to you. Talk and write about dying as much as you wish. You are giving all of us a wonderful gift. And I am extremely grateful to you.


I think we all appreciate being included in "your learning along the way". Share what you wish.

You have a gift of this time to reflect on the many blessings you've experienced in your life. And we are blessed to hold your hand and provide what comfort we can.

Beautiful. You are such an inspiration. Thank you for writing and giving us such a gift. Bless you on your journey.

Thank you Ronni for sharing your continuing journey with we constant readers.

Today’s subject is an apt one.

13 years ago husband died at home, in the middle of the night, as I slept next to him. There were signs, that he paid no attention to and didn’t share, that he was having heart issues. The signs began the day our grand daughter was born but my husband thought he had the flu.

We were, of course, focused on the home birth that took two days. I think my dear gentle husband didn’t want to take the attention away from the birth and he was concerned about home birthing.

The day he died we kept his body at home so people who wanted to come and say goodbye, to hold his hand and cry and offer support could then come into the living room and see the new tiny baby.

The eternal cycle of birth life and death were all around us.

It’s a scene that will never leave my mind.

I was cautioned about possible disease being spread and the depressing situation I’d never forget by a sincere young paramedic. But we decided to keep Russ at home until anyone who wanted to come by had. Facebook was good for something right then-spreading the word didn’t take a phone tree-just a Facebook post.

I have never regretted keeping him at home - and I wasn’t ready to let him go.

It’s a shame that more people aren’t allowed to die in their own beds surrounded by friends and family more often.

I too hope you have time to go kick a few leaves around in this beautiful unusual November weather. I’m sure you will appreciate and meet each day as it comes to you.

Much love and admiration

Your “neighbor”, Elle

ronni~ You are a true leader. You lead by example.You do not shy away from inconvenient truths. Instead, you provide such a wonderful gift, especially to us who share the TGB cohort at this time. Thank you for your service. xox

As usual, your words resonate strongly with me. Dying is not a failure, it's a worthy endeavor. And as such, deserves to be explored, respected, and upheld. Most of us elders grew up when death was very hush-hush, not talked about at all, and when someone died they disappeared. My sister's family never talk about her! I start a conversation, and it kind of limps along. I love remembering those I've loved who have died. And talking about them. And guess what? I read somewhere that there's a particle in the air, breathed by our ancient ancestors that we are breathing now! I love the cultures that include death in their life, and many do. But not us, Americans are terribly frightened by death. That is changing, there are more people like us, and, though I don't have much interest in going, younger people are attempting to get a grip on it with their death cafes, I think they're called.

I could not agree more!

I too grew up in a small (very small) town and elderly, or disabled relatives were in nearly every home. It was just part of life where I grew up. I spent most of my young years living in my grandfather's home so we could care for grandad and a crippled and mentally disabled uncle, his son and my mother's brother. I went from there to college and then on to other, larger cities to work and live, but I was still expected to do the same for my parents. When my mother died of cancer, as an only child I was duty bound to move back to West Virginia to take care of my father. Which I did without thought or compunction ... for five more years until he too died. Now, at age 81, one of my sons and his wife have moved in with me to help me, and my other son is doing his share to help out. It's a tradition our family has not forgotten.

There is a great and quite profound old saying,
"The only things sure and certain in this world are death and taxes."

Ronni, thank you for this. Your blog inspires as well as interests and entertains me, but this one is especially great! Thank you above all for using the real word "dying" and not "passing away". I was lucky enough to have had my grandfather living with us when I was a child, and my mother-in-law lived with us when she couldn't run her own home any more. She died at home with us, as did my husband, when he died last year. I was the local Hospice Home Care doctor, and we helped families to enable our patients to die at home, we were generally successful. Perhaps it's easier in South Africa? Although hospital deaths are now commoner.

Nothing much to add. I'm not a fuss and feathers person, and I rather agree with Nora Ephron's approach to her demise several years ago. How to die (unless it is sudden and/or unexpected) is probably the most personal decision we ever make. Of course, others must be considered, but each individual has the right to "do it my way".

I'm not religious --like Ron Reagan Jr., I'm not afraid of burning in hell--and I don't think I fear death or being dead. Although I'm probably optimistic or unrealistic, I certainly hope to have significant input to the process (the when, where and how of it).

When my husband was diagnosed with lung cancer and we were given the news that it was inoperable and time was short, he did not want anyone to know initially, and for quite a long time because he didn't wanted to be treated like a disease. I of course respected that but It was almost unbearable to be unable to have support, to be able to talk to and cry with the people closest to me. The intense pain of facing losing him informed my days and nights. It was only the two of us and I badly needed to reach out. He finally recognized that and allowed that my daughter and sister could know, but it was hard for him. He needed to work it out in his own way and was always a very private person. As you recognize Ronni, and others of you, everyone needs to face this in their own way and of course we all need to respect that. It's a very personal journey and for some, a private one.

This may be off topic, but is a related one.

Today's NYT has an article titled "How to Grieve for Online Friends You Had Never Met in Person" and I had to read it. So many of us who are in your ship of friends who are reading your posts as you proceed through this difficult process have expressed grief at hearing your terrible news. We all know the real grief is to come later.

The gist of the article written by a woman who has experienced this grief is that it is as real as that for a person we knew in person. I think we can all agree with that. Like many of you, I have lost dear Online friends and the grief I experienced is as real (and often more so) than the grief I had for people I have known for a lifetime.

Nobody who has not gone through the knowledge that their death is imminent and irrevocable can possibly know the emotions that you are experiencing, Ronni. I am sure that it is as different for each person experiencing it as we individuals are different.

All I can say is that I hope I have the wisdom to face it with the courage you are showing if I am given the advanced warning that you have. You are a remarkable lady and we all admire you so very much.

Thank you, Ronni

I’m so glad you are doing this, Ronni. It is so helpful.

And in America, we do seem afraid of talking about death. I find it ironic that the US, which is far more religious than many other countries and believes so wholeheartedly in an afterlife that is bliss, fears death so and avoids talking about it except for the necessary arrangements.

I love the more Eastern philosophy that connects all of us together along with the earth and the animal world. It seems so much more serene.

It is sad that we all grow old and die, but when I compare it to the millions who died young in WWI and WWII, it rather puts it into perspective for me. At 71, I’m more than satisfied with the length of time I’ve had.


You have voice my own mind and heart, dear lady. I thank you for saying it so clearly with the affection I too feel for you, Ronni, and many of the dear souls that share their thoughts here.

When, Sesame Street]s originator, Jim Henson died suddenly at only 54, in 1990, the grief I felt surprised me. I had never met him, but as a parent and former school nurse I knew what he contributed to the lives of children everywhere.

He said, "My hope still is to leave the world a bit better than when I got here."

Those were his words and I offer them now as I believe that is what you, Ronni, and your TGB 'adventure' has always done.
Thank you all.

Ronni I just became aware of you and your blogs this weekend...I have so much to say and to share with you....but for now I'm grateful of your existence. As I read about aging....something I've wanted to find a support group for, I read with interest...I then learned you had cancer....and then I gasped as I read you have pancreatic cancer....as do I......then you speaking of your fearful days and your good days and the real but humorous dilemma as to what nooks you should read....whipple surgery, recovering, chemo, three month check ups and scans...we are walking the same path....our experience with pancreatic cancer, we think so similarly about life...the questions the fears and the humor. Finding you was an answer to my prayers and somehow I don't think it was an accident. I will be visiting with you more and would welcome you if you would want to contact me.for now I just wanted to introduce myself to you...we even kind of look alike.
I am 7o and in second year of being cancer free but I'm still not sure what that really means...I leave the reality that it can and probably return. Glad we have met....Glenda kimsey.......email is [email protected]


Hello Nan...

Not that I don't dislike the phrase "passing away" but it the
short version, "passed" that drives me around the bend. Hospice
may be easier in South Africa. It's still an alien word and idea
to millions of people here. Only beginning to gain ground in the
past few years. Most people don't know the different between
palliative care and hospice so we have a long way to go to educate

Thank you so much for your kind words about TGB,

Ronni Bennett
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 212.242.0184
Blog: Time Goes By

On 12-Nov-18 11:08 AM, Typepad wrote:

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A new comment from “Nan
Jolly, [email protected]” was
received on the post “Making Dying
Part of Living” of the blog “TIME GOES BY”.

Ronni, thank you for this. Your blog
inspires as well as interests and
entertains me, but this one is
especially great! Thank you above all
for using the real word "dying" and not
"passing away". I was lucky enough to
have had my grandfather living with us
when I was a child, and my mother-in-law
lived with us when she couldn't run her
own home any more. She died at home with
us, as did my husband, when he died last
year. I was the local Hospice Home Care
doctor, and we helped families to enable
our patients to die at home, we were
generally successful. Perhaps it's
easier in South Africa? Although
hospital deaths are now commoner.

Commenter name: Nan Jolly,
[email protected]

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Death is a fact of life and I am grateful for how you are handling the process. It is yours, but sharing it gives us insight. Thank you.

Thank you Ronni for agreeing to share this journey with us. You are a trail-blazer. It is time death and the approach of it was no longer a taboo subject.
Many years ago, as a journalist, I remember interviewing a hospice doctor and discussing this subject with her.
The doctor said something that has remained with me ever since:"Often those last few months turn out to be the happiest of a person's life."
At the time I was puzzled until she explained. It is a time of reconciliation , of celebration and sense of peace.

My earliest childhood memory is associated with death through my sense of smell and awareness of a heavy feeling, darkened environment. Many years later my mother was surprised I remembered this event, since I was only about 3 years of age. There were other early childhood memories, too, she was surprised I recalled. Little eyes and ears have big pitchers. In this instant, we were attending the event of a recently deceased relative’s body visitation, before embalming was used.

Subsequently, much as you describe, I was raised in a manner not shielded from death — this was just a logical progression of life. We would not seek death, and would even try to avoid it in most instances, but eventually we, too, would engage in the process all of life experiences. I was shown that we see life, dying and death in the seasons with vegetation, observe this evolution with all our creatures.

I experienced viewing this process in many forms with family, friends, pets and accounts of those around the world I didn’t even know — some dying in peace and calm, others through horrific means at the hands of others.

I wrote a piece, “Time To Talk”, eventually, after my husband’s 2006 sudden death — coincidentally, shortly after my encountering your TGB writings. There was so much more he and I had left unsaid, accounting for conflicting feelings and unanswered questions, possible misperceptions for both of us. In recent years my older only sibling died — so much he had always been unwilling or even incapable of discussing with me that I’m left to long had not been so.

I think of others for whom I cared during the intervening years from my youth to the present with whom there was so much more to say — reminisces, serious matters, petty revelations, even tears, and laughter .... lots of laughter — and only a very few with whom I shared those conversations — but we were so glad to have them. I think of much I would say to you, but there are so many more important with others more prevalent in your life with whom I hope you’re able to talk.

So, I share your approach to how you address your future life expressions — whether in private, or what you may want to write here.

Ditto what so many others have said, i.e., Simone and Olga. I, too, am thankful I found your blog ten or so years ago. I have enjoyed your "friendship" immensely, and am all-the-more appreciating your insightful candor about life's end.

Wonderful and refreshing honesty.

I am mindful of my own childhood too when death was present around us in the elders living at home or with their adult children and cared for and even visited by school friends such as myself. It was part of daily life visiting someone's sick grandfather in his own bed andr running out and getting him some tobacco (ha in those days!) and in some cases dashing into the pub for a "bit of brandy" and bringing it to the bedside to "ease the load". It was more acceptable then. Part of life. And definitely not the American Way of Death.

Those sanitized funerals.

Death is a huge event , much like birth and I am so grateful you are recording it for us.


Dear Ronni,
I found this post particularly beautiful, probably because you have so accepted your dying. I have found that those who are accepting of their exit from this earth plane have a much richer experience of life until that time and a much easier exit because they are not fighting it.
I won't get into the politics of why as a society we have become so afraid and/or ignorant of dying. Suffice it to say that when the AMA took over in the 'early '60's as the main spokes-entity for the medical establishment, many things changed, some for the better and some, like the public's attitude towards death and dying, not so good. But your posts and these groups that are springing up, the cafe discussions, these are all great ways to start turning the tide back again to a more natural outlook.
So thanks for your part in turning the tide.
Warmest regards,

I agree with you completely. My husband of 51 years died on October 8, 2018. He had Alzheimer’s disease for ten years so we knew it was a terminal disease, without exactly knowing when he would pass away. Knowing this we traveled widely while he was still able. I also did the maximum to slow down his disease – taking many photographs for my blog so he could remember, as much as possible, where we had been. His sudden passing was very sad but I knew that this time was coming. He had been an environmentalist all his life, and in his professional life. I was lucky to find out that the first “green” burial place in the US protected by the Nature Conservancy had just opened in Tennessee. This conservation burial ground on 112 acres of rolling hills and meadows had been a family farm, minimally impacted by human activity. We buried him naturally, no embalming or chemicals to further contaminate the soil. Family and friends – men, women and children, took part in the burial ceremony as it was done 150 years ago. It was mindful natural burial.
I send you many hugs.

Ronni, I learned today my son has died, alone and in despair. It was no surprise but gut wrenching just the same. How I wish it could have been different. I don't know what else to say - I just needed to tell someone.

I agree.Home is where we should all be, if at all possible. My husband doesn’t like to talk about death. I grew up with death in conversation. It doesn’t make it easier when someone dies. It just makes it more acceptable.

Nature has prepared us humans for almost every eventuality. Our bodies tell us when we need to eat, need water, and need sleep.
When necessary, our body supplies a shot of adrenaline which helps us perform extra-human fiets of strength. And don't forget all of the systems that come into play during sex.
Unfortunately, the one (and perhaps most important) thing we are not naturally prepared for is our own demise. Until we are close to the very end when the 5 stages of death kick in there is nothing to help us cope with the questioning, fear, and isolation we experience during the last weeks , months, or years of our lives.

I wanted to send virtual hugs to Pursuit. I’m so sorry about your son. I can’t imagine the pain you feel.

Thank You Ronni. I appreciate your sharing. Words cannot adequately express what's going on here, nor the full magnitude and meaning of life and it's milestones and meaning. This is beyond profound.
Valuable insights are gained by us all. Again, Thank You.

You have been my (our) sage for so many years. No small gift, and we thank you. I wished I lived nearby, but I don't. I wish....oh hell, I wish for so many things. You know the saying, "Wish in one hand and spit in the other"....LOL

What I would ask: we here at TGB will ride the storm with you as far as you can lead us. I would hate to lose this band of merry oldsters once you, our Captain, has sailed away.

I am guessing you have plans for your blog, but hoping we don't all lose each other after the last ember has burned away.

I keep hearing Jackson Browne's "Late for the Sky"...

The words had all been spoken
And somehow the feeling still wasn't right
And still we continued on through the night
Tracing our steps from the beginning
Until they vanished into the air
Trying to understand how our lives has led us there.

Just remember, should you ever need us...we are here.

Loving you,


Had no way to respond to you personally on your comment here, but your pain is hard to bear witness to. I have a daughter who is estranged from the family. One day, I will get that news. Oh, how I understand.


The more I go around the seasons, the more I think of life as an "inside job" meaning-our beliefs and our attitudes set the framework for our unfolding experiences. And when I read that you have moments of seeing your dying as a gift-well, I had to just sit with that, to take that all the way in. Then, I found myself silently wishing that I will be able to find that place when my time comes as well.

Several years ago I took a course on "Death and Dying" at Columbia University. We read essays, poems, short stories, saw movies. The professors would talk about what makes "a good death".
Ronni you are the best "course" anyone could take. This beautiful and generous sharing of what you are feeling and thinking and the equally heartfelt responsiveness of a community of strangers-no-more that have bonded together is astonishing. This is a good death.
Thank you Ronni for every blog post - all of them written with straightforward practical laser like advice and commentary. Yours is the only blog I've ever read. You are a friend that I will dearly miss.

Your "Title" is so spot on Ronni! Dying IS part of living. No one will escape it. Those of us who've been blessed with a long life, (I'm 72), are indeed lucky to have the privilege of being able to contemplate the meaning of our lives and our exit from it. I've only come to this realization recently, and like you, am trying to make it part of my living, now that the exit door realistically looms on the horizon. I love what Shakespeare wrote: "We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded in sleep." Thank you for inviting us to share in this journey with you, and giving such beautiful voice to a truly equalizing life event.

@Pursuit. Thank you for sharing the gut-wrenching news of your son's death that several readers in this comment thread have already responded to with love and support. Blessings from Tamar in Tel Aviv.

I just read this today by Winton Horning:
"Death is more universal than life; everyone dies but not everyone lives."
Thank you for living your life so beautifully and sharing it with us...RJHorvath

Hi Ronni, again I'm bowled over by the depth, strength and courage of your writing. As one writer to another, thank you for your talent and ability to articulate a human experience in general, and your life in particular, that needs to be spoken and celebrated. You are a special soul, enriching and bestowing your light to all. Safe journey, Melanie Lee

Ronnie, Thank you for your continuing honesty and your refusal to look away from what is coming, for you and for all of us eventually.

@ Pursuit, I am with you in your pain and grief. We lost a daughter at birth, but I have sometimes thought that as terrible an experience that was, losing one of our boys, with whom we shared infancy, childhood, teens and now their adulthood would be unbearable.

Sending deep hugs from my soul to yours, and praying that you be comforted. <3

Pursuit, I'm sorry for the loss of your son and wish you the will and love of living to be your companions during the healing.

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