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A 'Good Death' Still Hurts


As the lead producer for the “Think Out Loud” audience show with surgeon and New Yorker staff writer Atul Gawande, I expected to be moved. I’d read Gawande from time to time, and heard him on a number of NPR shows over the years. He’s smart, well-spoken and insightful, and now, his new book, “Being Mortal,” was about the care we get (and don’t get) at the end of our lives. I had an inkling it might be a bit, well, sad.

But reading the book was a cathartic cry-fest. I was moved by many of the stories about his patients. But this one, about his daughter’s music teacher — which he also wrote about in the New York Times — got under my skin.

Peg Bachelder had been in and out of treatment for cancer, but finally, it was clear, she was close to death and went on hospice. She had told Gawande and the other families she taught that she wouldn’t be able to give any more lessons.

The families eventually gathered for one final send off for Bachelder, sharing in the joy of music she’d brought to their lives.

I thought about the loss of my grandmother, almost 10 years ago. She had a good death. That’s something I will always be grateful for. But that doesn’t mean it stops hurting, that the loss goes away.

We had one hour with Atul Gawande on “Think Out Loud”. About 75 people crowded into a meeting room at OPB for the show. It seemed they all wanted to share their stories. Unfortunately, we could only fit in a half dozen or so. Next time, we’ll try to book him for two hours. Or five.

Did you hear Gawande on “Think Out Loud”? Share your experience with death and loss in your own life in the comments below. 

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