Six years ago, Katy Butler’s memoir, Knocking on Heaven’s Door…The Path To A Better Way Of Death became an instant best seller. In her newest book, The Art of Dying Well…A Practical Guide To A Good End Of Life, offers us a much needed and easily accessible roadmap for navigating the end of life labyrinth.
DM: What brought you to the world of aging and end of life?
I was working as a freelance writer when my father had a major stroke. Even though my parents were highly educated, we entered this end of life journey completely lost. As an investigative journalist, I was outraged to suddenly come upon this failure due to a lack of preparedness on everyone’s part….the medical system, the individuals, everything was wrong about how we approached end of life.
DM: What’s your idea of perfect happiness?
This sounds so spiritual, but perfect happiness is being able to accept myself and the world exactly as it is and to experience delight in acting to relieve suffering. Another one is getting up at five in the morning, having a cup of green tea, and sitting in my upstairs study and watching the sunrise. Just being able to have fun! Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think.
DM: What is one lesson from your forthcoming book?
Don’t give away your power, your moral authority, shape your own death rather than expecting medicine or technical experts to shape it for you. The answers are within you, you can figure this out.
DM: What is your current state of mind?
Joyful scatteredness! I am moving out of the profound writing stage of life and into the numerous networking and promotions, getting the book organized and the book tour organized.
DM: Who are your favorite writers?
Mary Oliver. Elaine St. James. Rumi. Wendell Berry. They’re just certain just touchstones.
DM: What are you reading, what’s on your bedside table?
The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van der Kolk, MD; The Gift, by Hafiz; Poems by W.S. Merwin and Rewiring the Addicted Brain.
DM: What is one thing people would never imagine about you?
I’m not a grandmother and don’t have any kids of my own. But little kids just fascinate me! I love overhearing their conversations, their total lack of pretension. So I worked as a crossing guard about five years ago as a way to eavesdrop in on their delightful poetic fantasy world.
DM: What book would you like to be buried with?
Simplify Your Life…100 ways to slow down and enjoy the things that really matter. It’s just a small square self-help book from the 1980’s by Elaine St. James. It is one of the most incredible books I have ever read.
DM: What is your exit plan? How would you like to die?
I want to be rolled out into the yard all bundled up (so I don’t get cold) and have a super good look at the stars. That’s what I would love.
DM: If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
I would say a snail. I just love the way a snail looks, they’re so beautiful and placid and they move so slowly and the whole idea of just moving at that slow pace really intrigues me.
DM: If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
Well one thing he would say is, “Surprise!” and then “Welcome!”