At the End of Life

True Stories About How We Die

Edited by Lee Gutkind

What should medicine do when it can't save your life?

The modern healthcare system has become proficient at staving off death with aggressive interventions. And yet, eventually everyone dies—and although most Americans say they would prefer to die peacefully at home, more than half of all deaths take place in hospitals or health care facilities. At the End of Life tackles this conundrum head on. These twenty-two compelling personal-medical narratives explore death, dying and palliative care, and reveal the inner workings of a system in which doctors, patients and their loved ones battle to hang on—and to let go. 

Introduction by Francine Prose.

For more information about the book, its contributors, and end-of-life care news, visit the blog.

Purchase the audiobook here >>

Table of Contents

Editor's Note: Frank at the Piano Lee Gutkind
Foreword: New Approaches to End-of-Life Care Karen Wolk Feinstein
Introduction: Last Days Francine Prose
To Morning Anne Jacobson
On Bearing Witness Laurie Foos
Insights in the Rearview Mirror Phyllis Galley Westover
The General Larry D. Cripe
Yellow Taxi Eve Joseph
Wake-Up Call Catherine Musemeche
Simple Gifts Beecher Grogan
Living and Dying Well Therese Zink
A Better Place Valerie Seiling Jacobs
Waiting (to Go Home) Howard Mansfield
Mr. Stone Diana Flescher
Rules Maria Meindl
Life and Death and 911 Caroline Burau
Snowing in Krakow Marcin Chwistek
Do You Remember Patricia McCarthy
The Business of Grief Joe Primo
This Is Blood Sandell Morse
A Figurative Death Carol Cooley
The Measure of Time Amanda J. Redig
The Deep Truth Eugenia Smith
The Resurrection of Wonder Woman Eleanor Vincent
Twelve Breaths a Minute Gulchin A. Ergun


Caroline Burau

Caroline Burau is author of Answering 911: Life in the Hot Seat, a Reader's Digest Editor's Choice and finalist for the Minnesota Book... read more

Marcin Chwistek

Marcin Chwistek is a physician who specializes in cancer pain management and palliative care. He is a native of Poland and currently... read more

Carol Cooley

Carol Cooley received her bachelor's degree in Health Sciences and master's degree in Physical Therapy from Duquesne University in... read more

Larry D. Cripe

Larry D. Cripe is a leukemia specialist and essayist. In addition to essays in JAMA and other publications, he writes Grace Notes, radio... read more

Gulchin A. Ergun

Gulchin A. Ergun is a practicing gastroenterologist in Houston, Texas. She is the clinical service chief of gastroenterology and the... read more

Karen Wolk Feinstein

Karen Wolk Feinstein, PhD is president and CEO of the Jewish Healthcare Foundation (JHF) and its two supporting organizations, the... read more

Laurie Foos

Laurie Foos is the author of the novels Ex Utero, Portrait of the Walrus by a Young Artist, Twinship, Bingo Under the Crucifix, and Before... read more

Diana Flescher

Diana Flescher is a native New Yorker currently living in Israel. A specialist in internal medicine and women's health, she directs a... read more

Beecher Grogan

Beecher Grogan is the volunteer director of a nonprofit organization founded in 2006 by her daughter, Lucy Grogan. Lucy's Love Bus delivers... read more

Valerie Seiling Jacobs

Valerie Seiling-Jacobs is the author of "Packing for the Ineffable," which was published in the New York Times, and "The Million Dollar... read more

Anne Jacobson

Anne Jacobson is a family physician for the Cook County Health System in Chicago, Illinois. She earned an MD from the University of... read more

Eve Joseph

Eve Joseph grew up in North Vancouver. Her first book of poetry, The Startled Heart, was published by Oolichan Press in 2004 and nominated... read more

Howard Mansfield

Howard Mansfield is the author of five books, including The Bones of the Earth, In the Memory House, and The Same Ax, Twice: Restoration... read more

Patricia McCarthy

Patricia McCarthy is a registered nurse who resides with her husband and children in Chicago, Illinois. This is her first published work. read more

Maria Meindl

Maria Meindl's essays, poetry, and fiction have appeared in numerous journals, including the Literary Review of Canada, Descant,... read more

Sandell Morse

For more information please visit, read more

Catherine Musemeche

Catherine Musemeche is a pediatric surgeon and the author of Hurt: The Inspiring, Untold Story of Trauma Care, from which this essay is... read more

Joe Primo

Joe Primo is currently the director of the Good Grief Center for grieving children and teens in New Jersey. He earned his master's of... read more

Francine Prose

Francine Prose's highly acclaimed works of fiction include Blue Angel, Bigfoot Dreams, Household Saints, Hunters and Gatherers,... read more

Amanda J. Redig

Amanda J. Redig studied biochemistry and creative writing at the University of Arizona prior to enrolling in the medical scientist training... read more

Eugenia Smith

Eugenia Smith is a writer of fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. She has a BA and an MA in English from the University of Minnesota,... read more

Eleanor Vincent

Eleanor Vincent is the author of Swimming with Maya: A Mother's Story (Capital Books, 2004) and a collection of essays, This I Believe... read more

Phyllis Galley Westover

Phyllis Galley Westover's writing has appeared in magazines, newspapers, and anthologies. In 2003, she received Boulevard Magazine's... read more

Therese Zink

Therese Zink is a family physician and professor at the University of Minnesota. She sees patients in a small town in Minnestoa, teaches,... read more


"Impressive, meaningful, and often courageous"

Publishers Weekly

February 27, 2012

In 22 essays, family members who have survived the death of children and parents, as well as a variety of health professionals, talk... read more

"Beautiful" and "Uplifting"

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

March 30, 2012

A collection of creative nonfiction essays about end-of-life issues. How depressing, a friend said. I thought the same thing until I... read more

The Caregiver's Bookshelf: Essays on the End

The New York Times' New Old Age Blog

April 26, 2012

“At the End of Life: True Stories About How We Die” contains some truly gripping narratives that illuminate a hard... read more

"Important" and "beautifully written"

New Pages

April 1, 2013

As expected given the subject matter, this collection contains an ample amount of sadness. But these writers deftly use details,... read more


To Morning Anne Jacobson

A shriek in the darkness drew out my shallow,... read more

Wake-Up Call Catherine Musemeche

I remember an elderly woman with failing... read more

The Resurrection of Wonder Woman Eleanor Vincent

Pink from her bath and aglow with excitement,... read more