Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, a pioneer in the development of hospice care in the United States, wrote the book, Life Lessons, with David Kessler when she was dying. It’s a fascinating book, one I found most enlightening when I read it fourteen years ago.
BJ Miller a palliative care physician at the Zen Hospice Project in California opens today’s TED selection with a personal story about how his suffering got him where he is today. He also tells stories of the people under his care who are teaching him how to develop a design for dying. Listening to his stories reminded me of visiting my grandmother in the nursing home in the 1970’s. She was in her 90’s and her husband, my grandfather had died a few years earlier. The three things she wanted to do most were to visit the local ice cream parlor for a treat, to reminisce about her life and to eat bananas.
There was a time when I would have shied away from any conversation on dying, but having now entered my eighth decade of life (just turned 70) I don’t have that luxury anymore. What I’ve discovered with the help of Koobler-Ross and BJ Miller is that by learning how to accept death, I’m really learning how to live.