Demystifying the End of Life: Sitting Down to Chat with Dr. Glen Miller

 

P1050650Dr. Glen Miller is a man with a passion for dying well. But he is also all about living well—and is clearly enjoying each new day he lives because he survived two heart attacks and one cardiac arrest. He is the author of a book Herald Press published this spring, Living Thoughtfully, Dying Well for which I served as editor.

I had to ask my sister, an R.N., the difference between the two. Maybe you’re fuzzy on that too. A heart attack can be mild or severe where blood flow slows down due to blockage, but in a cardiac arrest, your heart actually stops. Unless something happens to start it up again, you are dead dead. Luckily for Dr. Miller, someone gave him CPR and several years later, he not only wrote a book and got it published, but is on the lecture or book tour circuit to share ways all of us can realistically and lovingly prepare for what is inevitable.

P1050649P1050647 P1050646Earlier in May I not only had a chance to finally meet this author I had worked with by phone and e-mail for over a year, but heard him speak to a group of about 45 in Goshen, Indiana. Organized as a Lifelong Learning Institute class, he and Jep Hostetler (author of another Herald Press book, The Joy Factor) presented a wrap-up workshop on “Living Well, Dying Well,” the theme of their jointly written blog.

P1050644Jep Hostetler is also a magician who usually has some tricks up his sleeve, and a real love of life.

I also had the opportunity to sit down with Glen and his wife, Marilyn, in their lovely sun-drenched breakfast nook for a healthy breakfast of granola, yogurt, muffins and coffee.

P1050651Marilyn and Glen Miller in their home.

We talked families, chattered shop, the book, the blog, about opportunities for him to share with wider audiences than Mennonites about the content of his book, which is rich.

Living ThoughtfullyThe morning was rich and too soon I needed to head to my next activity, which was helping with my mother’s care in the rehab unit of the health care section of Greencroft Retirement Community. She will be 90 this summer and yes, the book is perfect for me and my siblings as we deal not only with her upper years, but our own aging. As someone has said referring to how much longer people are living, “Ninety is now the “old old.”

Mennonite pastor Ron Guengerich, in the documentary Embracing Aging, (produced by Mennonite Media) talks about how for many, the beginning of retirement seems like the “golden years” –many enjoy new freedoms from traditional jobs, and childcare obligations. It is frequently only as we reach the later 80s and 90s that things change, sometimes drastically, and life slows down, becomes more hemmed in. That feels like what is happening for my mother. But that’s ok. That’s life.

As Ira Byock says in that same documentary (which aired on ABC, NBC and Hallmark), “It’s time for we baby boomers to grow the rest of the way up. It turns out that we’re mortal. We have to face that and get over it.”

It seems that many people are getting the idea: a recent article in The Washington Post focused on “Death cafes” where people come together to open conversation and demystify the end of life.

Dr. Miller’s book, Living Thoughtfully, Dying Well gives stories, medical insight, worksheets, and insider viewpoints of a survivor who has spent his life working as a doctor and hospital administrator. I wanted to listen and learn from the wealth of experience he’s had.

What are the key issues you face for yourself or your family in thinking about aging and dying? Has your family had “that talk”? We’d love to have your comment.

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2MillerGlenIf you’d like to invite Dr. Miller to address your group, church, Sunday school class, retirement home (especially families of patients and staff), or civic group, he is planning a trip east in September (focused on Pa. and Va.). You can contact him through his blog: http://www.livingjoyfullydyingwell.com/appearances/

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Don’t take my word on the merits of this book, I’m prejudiced. But you might want to check these words from others:

Mark Derstine, a chaplain at a retirement center in Souderton PA has written a review in the Mennonite Health Journal. Scroll to page 16 to find the review where Mark says: “Best of all is when older and younger generations read and learn from this book together so that dying well becomes a source of renewed faith and love together in Christ.”

Ron Mathies, former Executive Secretary of MCC wrote in an email to Dr. Miller: “Your personal experience with heart disease, your medical knowledge, your faith and your over-arching gracious and positive perspective on life and death all come through powerfully, in a profoundly practical and deeply spiritual manner. Thank you!”

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To purchase copies of Living Thoughtfully, Dying Well: A Doctor Explains How to Make Death a Natural Part of Life, click here. (Note that “group study shelf” discounts of 25% off are available for any purchase of five or more.)

To purchase the DVD of the Embracing Aging documentary (with study guide and bonus content), check here.

Dr. Miller is also the author of Empowering the Patients: How to Reduce the Cost of Healthcare and Improve Its Quality (Dog Ear Publishing, 2009).

We’ve had a previous post on Mennobytes mentioning Glen: here.

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Melodie Davis is a managing editor for Herald Press and author of nine books. She keeps a personal blog at www.findingharmonyblog.com MelodieDavisBlogPhoto

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