7 Characteristics of a Good Death. Will You Be Ready?

7 Characteristics of a Good Death

Alzheimer’s is often called “the long goodbye.” Our family experienced my mother’s long goodbye through her twenty-year journey of living with Alzheimer’s. In a sense, Mom died long before her body gave out. Mom’s spirit slowly evaporated.

Anne Elizabeth Denny and Carol Easley Denny in 2008: Mom's 20 year journey with Alzheimer's

Mom and me in 2008

In her final six months, we experienced three periods of Mom’s decline towards death. We sat with her through several days of active dying. Twice, she rallied.

In her final three days in May of 2012, just days after her 78th birthday, Mom was tenderly guided to her eternal home with hospice care. Dad and I sat by her side, sometimes together, sometimes taking turns.

Though her journey was long, her death was a good death. No tubes, no CPR, no wires or beeping monitors. Soft music filled her room. She was in her own bed, in the care home where she’d lived for more than eleven years. She breathed her last with her husband at her side.

Even if the dying process unfolds over time, a patient can experience a peaceful passing and a good death. A good death has the following qualities:

  1. Being at peace—spiritually, emotionally and relationally.
  2. Feeling supported by loved ones and knowing they are united in their support and love for each other.
  3. Living peaceful, symptom-free and pain-free final days.
  4. Experiencing dignified and gentle final hours without aggressive, invasive treatment.
  5. Feeling a sense of control by having one’s treatment decisions honored.
  6. Knowing one’s life has had purpose and value.
  7. Having one’s affairs in order.

None of us can predict the circumstances of our death. However, thoughtful preparations will increase the probability of a good death. By writing and communicating a meaningful healthcare directive, you and those you love can prepare for a good death and a graceful journey.

Remarkably, investing the time to prepare for a good death creates the opportunity to earnestly assess your life, which in turn can open the door to living with greater intention and purpose. You will also experience greater peace of mind.

While Mom’s death was the terminal ending to her twenty years of living with Alzheimer’s, I believe she died with dignity, surrounded with love, spared from invasive treatments, at peace with God and ready for eternity. Just a couple of hours after her death, God gave me a vision of Mom in her tennis clothes. You see, Mom was a champion tennis player. I bet she’s been winning matches ever since she arrived in God’s heavenly courts.
How would you define a good death for yourself or for a loved one?

QUESTION: If you or a loved one have experienced “a good death”, would you please share your story and inspire others via social media? Please share this post with your comment.


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2 Comments
  1. Anne, Thank you for your beautiful story. I too was blessed, in that I was able to be at my father’s bedside, with my mom as he passed. He was in his own bed when he left us. My older sister, who had been there for weeks, had just left to run an errand. I have the feeling that he didn’t want to die in front of her. He was her hero. My mom and I sat there and told him that it was ok to go, we would be fine and that we loved him. There was such a sense of peace in the room. He looked years younger. You see, he had been dealing with chronic pain for years. Finally, his pain was gone. He was with his savior right then. What a wonderful blessing this was to see.

    • Sheryl, thanks for sharing your story as well. A good death can be such a blessing to loved ones, offering peace and closure mixed with the sorrow and grief of loss.

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