My dad’s death at only 73 was very sudden. In a warm condolence letter, one of his medical colleagues reflected on the countless deaths he’d witnessed and admitted that he still couldn’t say which type of death and associated grief he would choose. An unexpected death minimises suffering for the one who dies but increases the shock for the bereaved. A slower approach to death allows time for preparation but too often also allows time for pain and suffering, and for denial. And, as Bill said in his letter, it’s a hypothetical conundrum anyway because few of us will get to choose. Indeed, we know not the day nor the hour.

I’ve come close to my own death a few times and I’m embarrassed to say that one of my lingering concerns is for the poor souls who will have to tidy my house. I know I could use this lesson as an impetus to keep my house tidy but instead I’ve left an apologetic note with my papers and a bequest to be used for a thank-you meal.

Being prepared for death is a matter of practical things: a statement of wishes about medical interventions, wills, LPAs, details of financial and household affairs, funeral wishes, perhaps even a tidy house or a note of apology. The practicalities are weighty, but there are more matters we must attend to, both in relation to our own death and to the deaths of those we love:

Do loved ones know they are loved? Are there bridges left to build? Is it well with my soul? Am I ready?

Ali Lyon