Dignity in Death is an essential guidebook, full of necessary facts, though not the kind of information we relish thinking or talking about. That’s probably why so many leave this world without having put their house in order. Barbara Frandsen makes a good case for preparing for the end before we are at the end; Dignity in Death is 137 pages of straightforward guidelines to help us simplify the quandary for those we leave behind. I know, from serving as executor of my father’s estate, how difficult it can be to go through files and boxes of papers to make sure all points are covered—especially while grieving. (Mom had passed four years earlier and left everything to Dad.) I hope to apply Frandsen’s suggestions to make sure my own affairs will be in better order well before my time comes.
This applies to more than the physical. Consider, for example, this quote from Chapter 5: “Forgiveness or lack of forgiveness matters—whether it be for others or oneself.” Forgiveness makes for healthier living and dying. Or, from the same chapter, on learning to see ourselves correctly, to create a new self-image: “Maybe I’m not as good or as bad as I once imagined. Maybe I am an ordinary human who makes mistakes even while seeking to be a better person.”
The author shares short, personal vignettes about her family through several generations, as examples of the power of family, love, faith, and despair as she offers encouraging suggestions that thread throughout the book. Chapter and section titles serve as prompts that are easy to reference back to as needed. Chapter 7 offers “Words to Help Anyone,” an excellent source to find the RIGHT words to say to those suffering or grieving (with important reminders to always be sincere as you extend words of hope and condolence).
Chapter 8 offers helpful reminders to those dealing with grief, such as “Avoid Anesthetizing.” I found a few surprises in the section about substance abuse and numbing out.
The author provides detailed comparisons of the differences between palliative care, Hospice, Medicare, Medicaid, and community home-based care, as well as the variations in cost and experiences of funerals, memorials, and celebrations and the various types of burials available. She even provides instructive lists in writing eulogies.
Dignity in Death is a well-organized, well-researched, and well-written book. Anyone who utilizes Frandsen’s recommendations in the “Preparing For Your Own Death” section of this book would be doing a great kindness to their family. We all know we will not live forever, that death is a universal experience. I especially loved her suggestion that we write letters to be opened after we are gone. What a treasure that would be for our survivors. I highly recommend Dignity in Death as THE simple self-help guidebook everyone should consider following.