I have never died, so this entire book is a fool’s advice,” writes Sallie Tisdale at the start of her latest work, Advice for Future Corpses (and Those Who Love Them): A Practical Perspective on Death and Dying. However,
there’s wisdom in knowing that you don’t know it all, and Tisdale’s
enchanting prose searches as often as it instructs. In addition to being
a writer, Tisdale is a Buddhist practitioner and teacher, a nurse, and an end-of-life educator who leads workshops on preparing for death; her depth of experience at the side of the dying is apparent throughout.
In these essays,
Tisdale tells of the death of her Zen teacher, her mother, her close
friend Carol, and others she has known, and asks questions many of us
avoid: How do we define death? How do we manage physical pain or grief?
Does our dignity depend on our health? This book, Tisdale writes, is
meant to help you prepare for your own death and the deaths of those
closest to you. It’s a travel guide to the end of life, a map of the
territory, not a book of spiritual guidance. At its close, Tisdale even
offers four appendixes for those seeking advice on the practicalities of
death preparation. “My Death Plan,” “Advance Directives,” “Organ and
Tissue Donation,” and “Assisted Death” prompt readers to consider their
preferences for pain management, rituals and services, burial place,
funerary rights, and more.