The Art of Dying Well by Ian M Kilgour

Cover The Art of Dying Well

Reviewed by Roger Hey

 “Ideas and reflections to help you face your death with courage, peace and hope.”

This isn’t a book about death as such – it’s much more personal – it’s about your death, and mine, and how we might prepare for it. There are plenty of writings on death, but nothing, of course, on you or me, and little on how we approach our dying.

Few of us think closely about our death until it’s forced on us by health issues or advancing years. New Zealand culture today gives us ways of avoiding it, with denial being widespread and soft language to keep feelings under control. Then, how best can we cope when we know our own death is close ? How to prepare for it?  How do we die – well?

Aucklander  Ian Kilgour, author of The Art of Dying Well, has held pastoral positions with New Zealand Methodists, Presbyterians and the Salvation Army, and from his  experience brings together  “ offerings… intended as helpful pointers.”

His book starts with practical matters that may need to be addressed now like legal matters, an Advance Care Plan to prepare or funeral wishes to be made known to others. He then gives importance and ample space to celebrating significant people, places and  events in our lives, to looking back, to see our place in the large picture of life. Then looking forward, there is a wide selection of reflections on dying from world faith traditions, particularly Jewish and Christian, but also readings from other faiths and sources. There is plenty here to warm the heart and satisfy the mind.

The book includes options of possible prayers, hymns, songs and benedictions for a ceremony.

Ian Kilgour has produced a very useful book, easily shared by hospital visitors and chaplains where appropriate. It can also give focus to discussion and sharing on topics many of us find difficult, so that when the opportunity is there we have plenty that’s important to say to loved ones or an attentive listener.

Pastoral care chaplain Patsy Cochrane calls this book “a pathway to help people face their fears about aging, illness and death”.

With 76 pages, it’s small enough for weakening arms to hold, with  print large enough  for  failing eyes to read. Don’t be surprised if this honest book becomes a best seller!

If you’re a person who hungers for truth in a context of  unconditional love as your death approaches, you will find in this resource a means that lets you be who you are, celebrates your life, plans for what you want now, and then helps bring closure to your years in hope, love and peace. And all wrapped up in “…an embrace of undying love that awaits us…” (a quote from Bishop Bruce Gilberd, former Bishop of Auckland, on the back cover of the book.).

The Art of Dying Well can be ordered from the St Heliers Presbyterian Church and Community Centre, 100 St Heliers Bay Road, Auckland 1071. Email: or by emailing the author: Copies are $10 each plus postage, or if ordering five or more for ministry/chaplaincy purposes $6 each plus postage.

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