Art of Dying Art of Dying_Volume III_joomag | Page 56

LAURA PRITCHETT know that's not always the way it goes. Thinking about my children's death is the one thing that can bring me to my knees in agony. But it happens. One of my son's best friends just died in a hit-and-run car accident. I could think only of his parents. Who’s thought about their 18 year old, whether he should be cremated or buried, and if buried, where? How do you even start to think through that kind of stuff? I couldn’t imagine the pain they were in. Although the very worst thing that could happen would be to have my children die, I am comforted by the fact that we've had these conversations. They're young and death seems so unlikely, but I know exactly what they want done with their bodies. After Making Friends With Death came out I realized I’d done most of what I had been preaching. I had my advance directive. I had a will. I'd answered my questions about how I wanted my life to be celebrated. One thing I hadn't done was leave my two kids any knowledge of who I am. I forced myself to go through all my files, all my books, and prepare one box for each of important things that spoke about who I was and how much I love them. It would be untruthful to say that I've made complete and utter peace with my death and understand it fully. However, what I have done is started a deepening relationship with death that makes every day feel better. I'm definitely on the right path, pointing my ship in the right direction. Most days I feel like I can say, "Yeah, I'm good to go." It will be a gift if people see on my face that I'm good to go. I can't promise I'll feel that way when the moment comes, but I have certainly put a lot of tools in the toolbox, and at one point I didn't even have a toolbox. Create space for death. Create mindfulness for it. You take the time to get your teeth cleaned, or the oil changed in your car. Those aren't pleasant activities, but you know you're going be grateful that your car's running and your teeth aren't aching. Spend a couple of minutes every night establishing a conscious death awareness before going to sleep so that when the time comes you’ve created a peaceful passing. To the person who has very little time, I would say, develop a quick death mantra. As I say in the book, a death mantra can be an image that makes you smile. An image of your kids when they were infants, or your dog's face, or your cat batting a toy mouse. Something that's going to make you smile. Get that in your head and focus on it. Let it bring you a smile. Dying that way, with something beautiful in your mind seems a good way to go. From a conversation with John Wadsworth LAURA PRITCHETT is a mere mortal who will someday die—and she’s feeling better about that after writing Making Friends with Death: A Field Guide to Your Impending Last Breath (To be read, ideally, before it's imminent). Laura has spoken to palliative care associations, death cafes, and given classes.  She’s also the author of nine other books. She began her writing journey with the short story collection Hell’s Bottom, Colorado, which won the PEN USA Award for Fiction and the Milkweed National Fiction Prize. This was followed by three novels, which have received starred reviews from Booklist, Publisher’s Weekly, and School Library Journal. Her book The Blue Hour was listed as one of the “Top 5 books that will make you think about what it is to be human” by PBS and made the Booklist Editor’s Choice for 2017. LEARN MORE AT WWW.LAURAPRITCHETT.COM • EMAIL LAURA L_PRITCHETT@MSN.COM WWW.MAKINGFRIENDSWITHDEATH.COM 56 | ART OF DYING