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Advice for Future Corpses (and Those Who Love Them): A Practical Perspective on Death and Dying

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  1,056 ratings  ·  226 reviews
Sallie Tisdale offers a thought-provoking, yet practical perspective on death and dying Informed by her many years working as a nurse, with more than a decade in palliative care, she provides a frank, direct, and compassionate meditation on the inevitable.
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published June 12th 2018 by Gallery Books
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Inactive Canadian
As the title of her current book makes clear, Sallie Tisdale is a provocative writer who likes to address uncomfortable (even taboo) subjects that many prefer to avoid. If you can get past the blunt, weirdly funny, and challenging title of this book, you’ll be okay with the contents: an interesting mix of personal stories, practical advice to assist you in preparing for your own death or caring for a dying loved one, details about the actual process of dying (the changes in the body at various s ...more
Jul 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Everything you always wanted to know about dying, mostly. Interesting, yes. And a great tonic for those of you into denial and delay (you get "D" for effort). It suffered a bit from some repetition, yes. And the part about Tisdale being Buddhist didn't get as much attention as I wished.

But the cool part came in the final chapters, especially about what happens to your body in the final hours, and what happens to your body once it has "crossed" (and gee, I wish there were an exclusive chapter on
Diane Barnes
Aug 21, 2018 rated it liked it
I admit the title is what drew me to this book. I continued reading because it is an unsentimental, non-religious, practical look at death and dying. As the author points out, birth and death are the two experiences that every living creature shares, that no one can practice for, and that are the big mysteries of existence.

In case you think this is a depressing book, it is not. Realistic advice on how to control what you can, and make dying easier for yourself and others.
Jul 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
I’ve never felt better. Last Words of Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.

If the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, the road to death is paved with platitudes. Nigel Barley

I know this will likely sound maudlin, I promise you I’m a joyful person, but I’ve been thinking a lot about death in the last few years, especially after my Father died, and as with everything in my life, I try to find answers, or at the very least a path to understanding, through books. This was an eye-opening one filled with t
Jan 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
An excellent addition to the shelf of life and the challenges thereof--somewhere between 'How Can I Help?' and Montaigne's essays, between Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and Ram Dass--an examination both personal and philosophical. If the factual information, about the process of dying, the funeral business and its options, palliative care vs. hospice care, there is also the--for me--more moving and valuable discussion of 'the good death,' one that upsets our commonly held notions and challenges us to re ...more
Jul 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
A wonderfully philosophical and yet tongue in cheek reflection on what needs to be done at the end of life. Wonderfully practical, this treatise written by a palliative care nurse and Zen Buddhist, provides authentic information of how to handle a body when it has deceased and explains the person's final symptoms in his/her waning days and what it means. It also is a joyous affirmation on how to live. As someone who volunteers with hospice patients, I found it wonderfully informative and would b ...more
I was intrigued by the title. From it I expected information on the funerals and burials, how they work and what the options are. Most of the book is comprised of the author’s experiences with the death of family and friends and her observations from her nursing career. With the exception of Chapter 10 and the appendicies, my expectations were not met.

One of her themes is that death is normal. We all do it at some time. A dying person may not communicate and may show no signs of pain or internal
Feb 21, 2019 rated it liked it
Well, this made me think about death even more than I usually do, but I found Tisdale's thoughts on it and on the process of dying to be helpful and sometimes illuminating.

I have no doubt that all of this would resonate even more with someone either suffering from a terminal illness or helping someone else through the last stages of their life, but even from my relatively fortunate angle, this provoked me to consider, and sometimes reconsider, what I think makes a "good death," what role a funer
Feb 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, 2019
I have had a weird half decade. I've been thinking a lot about the afterlife. It turns out that half of me okay with mystery and the other half of me is definitely not. So I've been trying to look these things in the face, and consider and meditate on them.

This book is really something special. Hard, beautiful, honest. You will cry, from sadness and beauty and recognition. You will be upset. You will be soothed. Tisdale is truly a special thinker and beautiful writer.

Sep 24, 2019 rated it liked it
Information, advice and personal stories about death, dying, grief and even body disposal practices around the world. A bit of a hodgepodge, and some parts felt like they needed more discussion and fewer do/don’t lists, but still a nice antidote to the broad denial of death that seems to characterize so much of Western (or at least American) culture.
Sep 20, 2019 rated it liked it
Couldn't finish this before the due date and I'm not super keen on checking it out again right now.
Marcus Choo
Aug 02, 2018 rated it it was ok
Close your eyes. Feel the grass. The silk sheets. The skin of the loving hand. Hear the long-held note. Dance a little. Smell the bread. Imagine that.

As somebody who has spent a not insignificant amount of their time in a dissection room opening up cadavers, I probably am more aware of mortality (at least on a biological sense, in being aware of the horrifying internal clockwork that keeps us alive) than the average person. I think a lot about death but always as an abstraction, at a remove -
Jul 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved every word of this book. I listened to the audio version. I kept writing down phrases & I knew very quickly that I'll need to listen to this book again. I'll need to have a copy of the ebook so I can highlight a hundred perfect insights & so I can take advantage of the thorough & specific advice in the two appendices.
The advice is for us, future corpses, but almost more so for us, visitors. The choices are simpler for us as corpses than as helpers. It's not entirely new, but it's beauti
Sep 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was extremely interesting and informative to me at my age of 65. I wish I had read it 5 years ago when my mother was dying, and I think everyone could benefit from the author’s observations and advice.
Jessica McLaren
May 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
May I give this book 6/5 stars? or 17/5?

Are you going to die one day? Is someone you love going to die one day? Could you ever find yourself in the presence of the dying, such as an accident or other shared traumatic event? If any of these circumstances are likely to apply, by all means read this book.

This book is amazing. And I disagree with the back-cover blurb that says something like, "This book isn't about dying, but about how to really live." I think it's very much about dying, and that's
Elizabeth Theiss
Oct 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, death
As I approach my 70th birthday, I’m losing a lot of friends to the grim reaper. They have checked in to the Motel Deep Six; headed for room temperature; shuffled off the mortal coil; gone for their dirt naps. As yet another friend wends down the way of Monty Python’s dead parrot, I can’t think of a more helpful book than Sally Tisdale’s Advice for Future Corpses.

This is a travel guide for death and dying that is both practical and amusing. In the way of all good guides, Tisdale tells us about t
Amy Layton
Jan 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
How refreshing!  Books about death and dying never get old, a the act of dying and the moment of death is one of the big mysteries of humankind.  However, what isn't mysterious is the ways in which we culturally react to death and dying, and that, for some reason, provokes a lot of questions.  How do we comfort the grieving?  How do we know that the dying are comfortable?  How can we prepare ourselves for the inevitable?

Tisdale answers it all, from ways in which we dispose of bodies to the neces
Bethany Winn
Sep 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I checked this book out of my local public library, read approximately 5 pages, and stopped. I immediately ordered my own copy to purchase, because I wanted to underline almost absolutely everything. This book is honest and raw, funny and kind, helpful for thinking about my own mortality as well as the deaths of people I love. This feels like required reading for all mortal humans, particularly those who care for people who are near death or who are living with significant life-limiting illness ...more
Apr 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic book. I rented it from the library, but am going to have to buy it to continue to come back to it's comprehensive and humanizing walk through the painful (and often ignored) minutiae of death.
Jan 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Being a Buddhist physician working in Hospice, I have read many books about death and dying some of which are referenced in this engaging book. Not the dry tome on Advanced Care Planning, or tackling the subject from a particular point of view, Sally Tisdale manages to tackle just about every subject related to death and normalize it. The chapters on what to do with a body and grief are particularly informative and not covered well in other things I have read. Kudos!
Aug 20, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
This book is a great read if you are helping another person through the perfect, near-painless, at peace-with-the-world beautiful death. Or if you want reassurance that death is usually like that. If instead you are by the side of a person fearing death, suffering through some painful last weeks, not at peace with the world or with regrets, this book is unhelpful at best, insufferable at worst. Tilsdale devotes very few words to those sort of dying experiences, brushing over them as exceptions t ...more
Jun 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Quite simply, one of the best books I have read regarding dying, death, and grief. And I’ve read a lot.
M Aghazarian
Sep 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was what I hoped it would be -- a useful and practical book (more of what I expected Chanel Reynolds/"What Matters Most" to be). The narrator for the audiobook is REALLY good--her reading works really well for the tone and subject of this work. There was a lot on how to approach the death of others -- some blunt advice on what to do and what not to do i.e. do not expect the dead to reassure you. The book covers the concept of what a Good Death is, and tries to show how different deaths can ...more
Yvonne S
Poetic in parts, plainspoken narrative in parts, sometimes intimate and personal, sometimes actually LoL funny, often poignant, and throughout: wise. I found this book very fascinating and well written, and a breath of fresh air in a death-denying, mortality-averse culture.

The award-winning author has many years of nursing experience including in palliative care.

Chapters cover the fragility and ultimate ending of life for all of us without exception, resistance to thinking about it, what’s a go
Dec 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Don't worry about this book being depressing, it is really fantastic and strangely comforting. We are all going to die someday and Tisdale does a great job at laying out the process in a kind and compassionate way. She also talks a lot about what people caring for a dying person should and should not say and do. There is a lot to think about and much to do to prepare in order to make sure your care wishes are followed and it is good to begin while you are in good health. Death doesn't have to be ...more
David Gamble
Feb 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What an incredible book! I love the 'death positive' movement and the concept of the good death stuff, but there's a layer of a lack of realism there. This book? This book is real. It's honest about 'you do all this planning, but that doesn't mean it's going to turn out how it is in your mind. Here's what we can and can't do; here's how you get as ready as you can for this.' It's such a well balanced read as the author gives you practical pointers on what you need to do to be ready for death as ...more
Gaby Meares
Mar 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Great title!
Sallie Tisdale has written an unsentimental, non-religious guide to how to approach the inevitable! I would suggest that this is a book more about how to support someone who is dying, than a guide to preparing for your own death. It is, as the title states, very practical. Tisdale uses personal stories to illustrate and expand her 'advice'. So much of this is common sense, however, when faced with the death of a loved one, common sense is often lost in the fog of grief and fear.
Sep 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Early in the book Sallie Tisdale says, "This is not a book about a Buddhist approach to dying." However, the fact that she is a Buddhist brings Buddhist beliefs and parables into most chapters. Many of the deaths she writes about are of her Buddhist friends or teachers so some Buddhist rituals are described.

That given, Tinsdale does help the reader understand what to expect with the death of a loved one or your own death. Ms. Tinsdale is a nurse who has worked many years in palliative care so h
Apr 23, 2020 rated it liked it
This was good although maybe more "practical" than I assumed it'd be, despite it saying so right in the title, duh Maud. Practical right down to including a plan for advanced directives. It had a lot of sweet personal stories, but I wish there were more of that. Some parts read like Mary Roach's Stiff, which I remember liking, but this wasn't as fun.
Maybe part of the reason I couldn't or didn't want to enjoy it more was that I read the book during a global pandemic??? In some ways it was soothin
Christa Van
Nov 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
The title tells it all. I have no spoilers here except to tell you what a deeply careful and practical book this is. The audience is everyone and the content is helpful and clear eyed. The author's insights and advice are good for avoiding saying the really dumb thing to a person who is mourning all the way to those who need to plan for their eventual end. Experience has taught her much but there is still room for not knowing things too. Many of us end up typical in the end. If you want a previe ...more
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