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

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  1,274 ratings  ·  263 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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Canadian Reader
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: 2019, nonfiction
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.

Tara Brabazon
Dec 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A tremendous book. An honest book. A terrifying book. Tisdale goes there. She explores the moment where life becomes death, where a body becomes a corpse.

She enters the difficult spaces. These difficult spaces provide eloquent and powerful reflections on life and death.

A life changing book.
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. ...more
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 -
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
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.
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. ...more
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
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
Deborah Stevens
Jun 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
This was surprisingly great. I read it because I am in the medical field, working with patients at all stages of the lifespan, and wanted to learn more about end of life.

I particularly appreciated her discussion of some of our assumptions about how we want to die (at home, with hospice for many) and the occasions when this does not go well. Food for thought.

Tisdale includes lots of useful anecdote; those stories of loved ones and patients will stick with me.
While we all know everyone, including ourselves, is going to die, most of us don’t really accept this truth deep down. To help us learn to live with inevitable demise, Salle Tisdale offers this very clear and compassionate guide to meeting death and supporting those facing imminent death with both practical and spiritual advice. Both bracing and heartening.
Tom Rust
Sep 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Sallie Tillsdale interweaves her experiences with death with practical advice on how to cope for both sides of the ordeal. It flows well, but I might have trouble looking up a certain tidbit. And it brings home I am not anywhere ready to die.
Oct 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is essential reading for anyone who is mortal. It inspires the reader to live a better life and demystifies so many myths about illness and dying. It is especially helpful if you want to be supportive, and not annoying, to anyone who is ill or dying.
Dec 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is my favourite book about death so far. It gives you so much practical information, for before, during and after experiencing dying. I cried and laughed, I hope I remember everything that was conveyed to me when I eventually experience the totality of death with my family and friends.
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.
Judy  Monchuk
Aug 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Both of my parents died in the last three years, as did former co-workers and relatives. And then there is the pandemic. All of this has put a sharp focus on the frailty of life. As such, I thought I would read Advice for Future Corpses (and Those Who Love Them): A Practical Perspective on Death and Dying, a text largely and importantly filled with blunt yet humanitarian advice dealing with people facing death. Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Sallie Tisdale, a former palliative care nurse, present ...more
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“forgot that I would get old and lose the power that seemed entirely part of me, the power that allowed me to be busy and productive, rear three children, write books in the evening, and still get up and go to work.” 2 likes
“death is present, we are not.” (Many centuries later, Bernard de Fontenelle echoed him. He was a month short of a hundred years old when he died, saying, “I feel nothing except a certain difficulty in continuing to exist.”) Epicurus died at the age of seventy-two from prostatitis, which he found a misery. His attempt at comforting words fails to comfort many people. The idea that there will come a time when I am not is exactly what we fear. The Internet is a handy place to express and fuel our fears; there are many forums available” 2 likes
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