The Final Chapter: Five Authors Discuss Writing About Death

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Writers Benjamin Busch and Deni Bechard at the Miami Book Fair International. (Mythili Rao/WNYC)

At the Miami Book Fair International, five writers gathered to discuss their experiences with death. For Judy Goldman, author of "Losing My Sister," the death of her parents lead to a rift with her sister, who was then diagnosed with bile duct cancer. Carol Blue, wife of the late Christopher Hitchens, discussed her husband's last book, "Mortality," and how he spent his last months "living dyingly." 

Deni Bechard, author of a memoir, "Cures of Hunger," described how, as his father considered suicide, he finally began to share stories from his past. Benjamin Busch, author of "Dust to Dust," recounted facing death in Iraq — and then returning home from war to confront his own parents' deaths. And Susannah Cahalan, author of "Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness," explained how a rare autoimmune disease put her face-to-face with the prospect of her own death when she was 24-years-old.

Head over to for more on each of the writers, and to hear the second part of the discussion — on love.


Carol Blue, Benjamin Busch, Deni Béchard, Susannah Cahalan and Judy Goldman

Produced by:

Mythili Rao

Comments [2]

Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

My Grandfather saved his family in hiding during the Holocaust. My grandparents and three children survived in a hole the size of a grave in Lithuania for twenty months... this is not the story I want to tell...

The family story I grew up and which happened years before the Holocaust started, which was told at every family function which my Grandmother told as she served her homemade pies was: "I was very sick and Norman got the horse and carriage and was going to take me to where the doctor was twenty miles away...People told him, 'Don't move her on the horse, traveling will kill her.' He responded,'It's O.K. if she dies traveling to this town, not only is the Doctor there but the Mortician as well.' "

My family would be in stitches laughing at this story...Sometimes outsider guests would be over for the holiday and not be laughing at this story. Fear would overcome them and they had a difficult time with our family's theater of death as we laughed and laughed and ate their slices of pie.

Nov. 29 2012 01:07 PM
Rob Zucker from South Shore of Massachusetts

John - As someone who works with loss and grief everyday, I was very grateful for your insightful exploration of this subject today. My book, The Journey Through Grief and Loss: Helping Yourself and Your Child When Grief Is Shared (St. Martin's Press) has a different take on this important subject, that is, from the perspective of parents and grandparents struggling with their own grief while learning to mentor their own grieving children or grandchildren. This can be a daunting task, especially since so many of us don't understand the unique characteristics and challenges of child and adolescent grief. My work involves leading support groups and retreats, providing grief counseling, and also training professionals, since so many helping professionals have little or no education in this area. I've been privileged to train over 20,000 social workers, clergy, nurses, psychologists, and counselors throughout the US and Canada. My book is written as a companion to grieving adults walking hand-in-hand with their grieving kids. Again, thank you John. I am always impressed with your unique ability to intelligently explore tough subjects with honesty, passion, depth and humor.

Nov. 29 2012 12:42 PM

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