Recommended Read: One Man's Quest To Change The Way We Die

A story was featured in the New York Times recently about B.J. Miller, a doctor specialising in end of life care, who also happens to be a triple amputee. It's about the hospice he set up in California that takes an unconventional approach to looking after the dying.

The majority of the piece is about Randy Sloan, a guy in his 20s with a rare form of cancer, and how his final days are spent. This quote in particular stood out to me:

“I think of it as: Randy [Sloan] got to play himself out.”

This is a favorite phrase of Miller’s. It means that Randy’s ability to be Randy was never unnecessarily constrained. What Sloan chose to do with that freedom at the Guest House was up to him.

Miller was suggesting that I’d misunderstood the mission of Zen Hospice. Yes, it’s about wresting death from the one-size-fits-all approach of hospitals, but it’s also about puncturing a competing impulse, the one I was scuffling with now: our need for death to be a hypertranscendent experience.

“Most people aren’t having these transformative deathbed moments,” Miller said. “And if you hold that out as a goal, they’re just going to feel like they’re failing.” The truth was, Zen Hospice had done something almost miraculous: It had allowed Sloan and those who loved him to live a succession of relatively ordinary, relatively satisfying present moments together, until Sloan’s share of present moments ran out.

It's an emotional read, but well worth the time. Check it out: