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The Sun Magazine

Body and Mind

Death

Essays, Memoirs, and True Stories

The Unbreakable Thread

Here’s part of what I love about spirit threads: words that once inflicted only pain can become a heart wound, which then becomes both guiding scar and guiding star, transforming a perceived enemy into a genuine, if accidental, teacher. “Faith can move mountains,” that seminarian in the hospital said. “If you pray for your brother hard enough, with a pure enough heart, you can save his life.” Those words taught me via pain that, as writer Anne Lamott has it, “The opposite of faith is not doubt: it is certainty.”

Essays, Memoirs, and True Stories

Last Call

I was lucky. I didn’t have a physical dependency on alcohol. I just drank to be like everyone else at the party. Faced with a choice between dying young in a tangle of smashed things or pulling it together to have a regular life, I chose the regular life. I traded living on the edge for just living.

Essays, Memoirs, and True Stories

The Art Of Dying

The palliative-care nurse came one morning and put her ear on his gurgling chest. He had pneumonia, she said. He was finally dying decisively enough to qualify for hospice. Thanks to our involvement with her program, he would not meet his death in intensive care after a panicked stop in an emergency room. The nurse called the hospital and made the arrangements, and my mother called an ambulance.

The Sun Interview

The Long Goodbye

Katy Butler On How Modern Medicine Decreases Our Chance Of A Good Death

It’s an interesting philosophical conundrum: Which self do we honor? The fully capable, legally responsible person I am right now, who says I don’t want any artificial barrier preventing the natural death that might await me? Or the less-aware self that I might become at a later date, who might say, “No, no. Keep me alive”?

Essays, Memoirs, and True Stories

The Odds Of Injury

In rugby I find a clan of women who braid their hair tight to their scalps, who have tattoos and girlfriends and are fiercely loyal. They are my comrades on the field. They risk injury for me, and I do the same for them. Since women’s rugby is an underfunded club sport, we fight for field space, wake up early, play on the rocky public fields of Oakland.