Useful Guidebooks

Final Journeys: A Practical Guide for Bringing Care and Comfort at the End of Life
(Bantam, 2008) by hospice nurses Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelley. How to be present, steadfast, and helpful at a loved one’s deathbed.

The Four Things that Matter Most: A Book About Living
(Free Press, 2004), by Ira Byock.  Explains how to use the simplest phrases — “Please forgive me,” “I forgive you,” “Thank you,” and “I love you” — to navigate difficult passages with grace and even joy.

Gone From My Sight and other books in the End of Life Guidelines Series
By nurse and educator Barbara Karnes

Handbook for Mortals: Guidance for People Facing Serious Illness
(Oxford University Press 2nd edition, 2011), by Joanne Lynn, Joan Harrold, and Janice Lynch Schuster. Practical advice for caregivers and patients on issues ranging from setting realistic goals to tube feeding a person with dementia.

Jane Brody’s Guide to the Great Beyond: A Practical Primer to Help You and Your Loved Ones Prepare Medically, Legally and Emotionally for the End of Life
(Random House 2009). The title says it all, from New York Times health columnist Jane Brody

Books We Like

At the End of Life: True Stories About How We Die
(In Fact Books, 2012), edited by Lee Gutkind. Compelling, beautifully written stories by doctors, family members, chaplains, and others who have observed the death of loved ones, patients, and strangers.

Dying Well: Peace and Possibilities at the End of Life
(Riverhead, 1997), by Dr. Ira Byock.  Stories of pain and reconciliation from the bedsides of dying patients.

Final Gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs and Communications of the Dying
(Poseidon, 1992; Bantam Trade Paperback reissue, 2008), by hospice nurses Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelley.  Illuminates the surprising ways dying people communicate their needs, and what families can expect.

How We Die: Reflections on Life’s Final Chapter
(Knopf, 1993), by Yale surgeon Sherwin Nuland. Demythologizes the biological processes of dying, through a wide variety of patients, from Alzheimer’s to suicides.

Last Rights: Rescuing the End of Life from the Medical System
(St. Martin’s Press, 2006), by investigative journalist Stephen P. Kiernan. A book about how not to die. Examines hospital care and policy questions, with advice for families to regain control.

Last Wish: Stories to Inspire a Peaceful Passing
(Transmedia Books, 2012), by Lauren Van Scoy.  Life-and-death decisions and treatment in an ICU.

The Mercy Papers: A Memoir of Three Weeks
(Scriber 2009), by Robin Romm. Lyrical, brutally honest account of the author’s mother’s death.

Too Soon to Say Goodbye
(Random House, 2006). Humorist Art Buchwald checked into a hospice to live out his final days, then rallied. He felt great, entertained celebrity friends, and wrote this funny, poignant book about the experience.

Websites Worth Bookmarking

Caring Connections

Engage With Grace

Growth House

Hospice Foundation of America


Seven Ponds: Embracing the End-of-Life Experience

The Conversation Project

Blogs We Follow

Barbara Karnes

Compassion & Choices Blog

End of Life — thoughts from an MD


Hospice Doctor

Medical Futility Blog

The New Old Age


POLST – Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment 

Regina Holliday’s Medical Advocacy Blog

The Family Plot Blog: Funeral Planning for Those Who Don’t Plan to Die