by Libby James
North Forty News
“I wanted to get real and frank about it all. It’s best to fess up to the fact that decline hurts. Disease sucks. Death can be scary. Caregiving can be super hard. And our own death…well, that just seems unacceptable at times.
“But die we will. And that’s why I left my fiction writing to spend some time tracking down death to see what joys and wisdom and peace I could find.”
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With these words Laura Pritchett, Fort Collins-based author of five novels and recipient of the PEN USA Award, the Milkweed National Fiction Prize, the High Plains Book Award and the Willa Award, describes her newly published Making Friends with Death, subtitled A Field Guide For Your Impending Last Breath.
“I’ll pass on that one,” you’re saying to yourself. “Plenty of time to think about that later.”
Hold on a minute. In addition to being an intensely helpful, fact-filled “how-to” book on making peace with the inevitable, Pritchett has managed to take on this difficult subject with touching warmth, humor, authenticity and simple kindness.
She tells stories: Joyful and sad, filled with honesty and courage, about her own life and the lives and deaths of strangers and beloved family members. And along the way she offers a crash course in the art of dying that she dubs “Death Prep.” There you’ll find checklists, discussions, some chances to draw and do some nitty-gritty homework in preparation for taking what she calls “that strange and sacred last breath” that will come to each of us one day.
The book is divided into sections: First, a how-to guide in the art of dying, followed by a crash course in the art of living that shows how pondering death can enhance living. Then comes an extensive “homework” section with suggestions on writing a farewell letter, epitaph, obituary, divvying up your favorite possessions and planning your final celebration. Finally, there’s a valuable list of the best movies, books and songs about death.
Pritchett wrote the book because, in her words, “Part of the problem with discussing death in America is that the gravity and preciousness and sad-seriousness of it has turned people away from it.”
She has given years of thought to the topic and done a great deal of research on her own journey toward making friends with death. At one time she faced what she thought might be her own demise at a young age from a painful affliction that she has learned to manage and live with over time. She has attended death workshops, organized a “Death Café” with friends, and spent lots of time doing her own death prep.
This is a book you won’t be able to put down until you have soaked up every one of Pritchett’s words of wisdom, laughed with her and learned from her.
Making Friends with Death is available at Barnes & Noble and Old Firehouse Books in Fort Collins and through Amazon. For more about Laura Pritchett and her work, see http://laurapritchett.com/