Lion Forge: Haphaven by Norm Harper, illustrated by Louie Joyce

The Art of Dying Well: A Practical Guide to a Good End of Life

In The Art of Dying Well, Katy Butler (Knocking on Heaven's Door) provides a roadmap to navigating a good death. Despite the inevitability of death, she observes, most people remain unprepared for it. Advances in modern medicine help us live longer, but science "wards off death far better than it helps us prepare for peaceful ones." We find ourselves paralyzed by a bewildering, complex health care system that fails to support the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the dying and their caregivers.

Chapters cover the stages of decline, beginning with the earliest signs in late middle age; checklists at the beginning of each chapter can help readers identify their stage. Butler stresses the importance of building a social "bank account" of friends, neighbors and family members early, to share in caregiving as you age. She discourages the use of "halfway technologies" that delay death but fail to restore health, favoring palliative care and a network of ancillary health-care workers that provide comfort. When decline is irreversible and death is imminent, say goodbye to loved ones, "enjoy your red velvet cake" and meet your demise on your own terms.

Confronting mortality and slowly losing cognitive and physical abilities can be a confusing and devastating experience for the dying and those who care for them. The Art of Dying Well is an empowering guide that clearly outlines the steps necessary to avoid a chaotic end in an emergency room and to prepare for a beautiful death without fear. --Frank Brasile, librarian