For the Love of Books | Reading about Death

The two year anniversaries for both Mum and Grandad Paddy have passed in the last few weeks, so it’s not surprising that I’ve been reading about death this month.  Not in a morbid kind of way, but in a realistic and occasionally humorous kind of way.


With the End in Mind | Dying, Death and Wisdom in an Age of Denial by Kathryn Mannix: I recently read an interview with Dr Mannix and was immediately struck with how at ease she felt with discussing death.  It is, after all, something that will happen to all of us.

“The stories read like fiction, from a writer well attuned to her craft. The life in each shines through and the characters practically leap off the page. It is incredibly moving, of course, but what it isn’t is miserable. Yes this is a book about death, but it is also a book about joy. There aren’t all that many books that change the way you see the world. This book really might. It will make you want to do a better job of loving and living. It will make you want to be kinder. And it will make you want to cherish every precious moment of your precious life.” ~  Sunday Times

By the time I got to the end of the book, I’d realised a few things.  Both of my parents had similar deaths (and not because they were suffering with the same horrible disease) and both had the correct kind of death.  By that, I mean their deaths followed the prescribed pattern described so eloquently by Dr Mannix.  By a strange quirk of fate, while reading this, a close friend asked me for advice as she was preparing herself to sit with a family member who was dying.  Not only could I offer up my own experience, I was also able to recognise where on the path to death her loved one was.

The Brainy One and I both have wills.  We have legal guardians in place for The Boy Child, should they ever be needed.  I intend now to have a more in-depth discussion with The Brainy One about our wishes pertaining to end of life care.  Discussing death doesn’t bring it closer.

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson:  I loved this wee book!  It’s an easy read and I got through it in an evening.  Similar to Marie Kondo, Ms Magnusson talks a lot of sense.  She wrote that, “there’s no sense in keeping things that will shock or upset your family after you are gone,” which immediately made me think of a few old love letters and photos I have tucked away and that haven’t seen the light of day in years.  Ahem. I’ll be following up on her advice to have a ‘Throw Away Box‘ – a box for small things that are valuable to me and me alone.  When the time comes, whoever sorts through my belongings will come upon the box and will know exactly what to do with it.  Whether they proceed to lift the lid and peruse the contents will be up to them.

I helped Mum clear away Dad’s possessions and I helped my aunt and uncle to clear away Mum’s.  It’s not an easy job, so why not make it easier for those who will do it?

4 thoughts on “For the Love of Books | Reading about Death

  1. Oh where to begin on this … You are very brave to tackle such a topic at this time, I am sure your heart is still feeling quite bruised. I am on the library wait list to read The Gentle Art of Death Cleaning. I lost both my parents when I was young so I did not have a hand in clearing out/up their things. Part of me wishes I did because maybe I would know some of the things that are gaps in my memories. I did help (in ever so small ways) with clearing out from the last step-mother’s home, it was a massive undertaking & in the final weeks of sorting, I heard her cousin curse her several times, step mother was a HUGE hoarder. I have read a few books about grieving but maybe it is time to read, With the End In Mind. Mr Man & I have Wills & End of Life Designations along with Power of Attorney for each other & an alternate should the need arise. It is an ever so difficult, sensitive & painful discussion. Your still life photo is lovely.


  2. I always enjoy your thoughtful observations … I’ve read The Gentle Art of Death Cleaning, and am working on preparing a document for our children with all the info they might need about our affairs. I’ve begun to quietly clear some of my father’s things but am going slowly, at a pace which feels OK for me – if there’s one thing I know, it is that grief is very tiring, and some things cannot be rushed …


  3. Have you ever heard of Death Cafes? They are places where you can go and talk about death, your own or a loved ones. There are some in west London if you ever want to visit.

    Grief is tiring though, and taking time to accept that it isn’t linear is also important.


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