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A Personal Note

Dear New Reader, thank you for visiting Conscious Departures.

In October of 2011 the person I loved and shared my existence with for nine years passed away due to cancer. It took about a year and a half after her original diagnosis, and several rounds of chemo and radiation therapy, before it became clear she was not going to make it short of a miracle. At that point we both agreed that further medical treatment was dangerous and not worthwhile. Being ever hopeful, we kept our fingers crossed we’d discover a gentler, alternative therapy, but our main focus became quality of life and enjoying the moments we had left. In that remaining period we made many decisions and preparations to ensure that what happened after her passing would be smooth. As Kris had consistently made clear, she wanted her going to be “burdenless” to me and her family. We decided to go through the dying process at home and I agreed to be the primary care giver.

Yet, even with the careful preparations, what I experienced in the remaining months of her life was unlike anything I expected. And, if that wasn’t enough, what I experienced after her departure was a major shock. I was naïve as to what our decisions really entailed and despite our proactively asking doctors and the hospice it never became entirely clear to me until we were in the thick of it. As amazing and beautiful as so much of the process was, it was also immensely overwhelming. I realized during the time I was caring for her, and especially afterwards, that many of my friends and acquaintances were probably like me, vaguely aware of what was ahead of them when faced with end of life situations. I wondered how many were taking time to discuss and understand it.

Thinking about the people I knew I felt strongly to communicate my experience and create this blog site as a way to express what I learned, provide an outlet for others to write about this subject and to offer links and information from professional sources.

My hope is that this site may encourage someone to take the time to talk about and prepare for dying – and to do it when their loved ones are alert and able to communicate. Whether it be a spouse, parents, grown children, friend, significant other, etc., I can assure you that you’ll never regret the time you take to discuss this subject with them. It may not be easy, but the discussion, planning and research you do now will result in a more conscious and beautiful period of departure.


1. robin hwang - March 25, 2012

Thanks for sharing this very valuable and personal experience. Death was something rarely discussed with within Asian family until recently. We have much to learn in this. My brother and I try to discuss with my parents about how to enjoy life one-day-at-a-time. Somehow the habitual behaviors overshadow all rationales. I shed tears with thoughts of losing my parents. No one wish to see their parents perish. However, my goal is to out-live my parents so they don’t have to bury me. It would be way too painful for them…

2. Dave Cohen - March 26, 2012

Thank you so much for starting this site. The concern, warmth, and intelligence that you share here are most needed and welcome in these changing and aging times. Thanks for providing heartfelt insights and resources. This information & encouragement will without a doubt be of great value to everyone at some point in this life.

3. frangipani - May 12, 2012

I have nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award! Please feel free to accept or do nothing as you wish. Keep on writing!

ijwoods - May 13, 2012

Thank you very much for the nomination! I am honored and accept.

4. sally - July 3, 2012

Thank you so much for writing this blog, Ira. I am facing the end of life with my sister right now, whon is also dying of cancer. She has been fighting it for the past 3 years. I have spent much of the past year visiting with her. Right now I am facing so many emotions within myself: fear, sadness and anxiety. I am interested in reading about others experiences to better help me support her.

ijwoods - July 3, 2012

Hi Sally, I’m sorry to hear about you sister, you must be very close to her. Please let me know how to contact you. You can send me a private message by going onto the contact page. I’d be happy to send you any information I have. I don’t know if you looked at the “resource” page but there are some simple but important things that you might find helpful. I will also try and contact you through Facebook.

5. reneetamara - October 23, 2012

I absolutely love that you are writing about this. As you know, I recently lost both my parents and cared for my elderly father since his dearest wish was to die at home. I am still learning lessons from what I witnessed, as you mention here, it was both painful and beautiful. The highest moments in my life include giving birth to my children and also witnessing the passing of my parents. I will look forward to spending time reading about your experiences as well.
Thanks for liking my blog, too.
Warm wishes,

ijwoods - October 24, 2012

Thanks for visiting and your comment, Renee. It’s interesting that you experienced birth as having similarities to death. I also felt the same thing. I never had a child but I was invited by some friends to watch the birth of their first son. It was something I’ll never forget. Caring for K had the same intensity of feeling. It wasn’t a sad feeling; it was as if another kind of birth were taking place. The power and concentration was all encompassing. I was faced with reality and nothing else measured up to it. And in this transition there was so much kindness and presence that nothing ever had to be said.

6. joanapter - February 16, 2013

thanks ira, this will help so many people!

7. Eugene Semon - February 16, 2013

Thanks Ira for this blog. Even though it was 45 years ago, the trauma from when my mother was dying of cancer Dad too in 1996), I can still benefit from what is written here in terms of what was wrong way back then.

ijwoods - February 18, 2013

Thank you Gene. Please comment and share some of your personal insights when you feel to do so. It will help us all.

8. Joy Winnel - February 16, 2013

Thanks Ira – I am looking forward to both reading and contributing on this subject.

Elizabeth Swinburn - February 17, 2013

Thanks Ira, a site like this can be valueable. I lost my brother at 21 to suicide, then my sister at 33 to breast cancer and then my father in post op a few years later. These losses have had such a huge impact on my life and through most of them I’ve not had people really to share the process with. I live in another country from my family and so many people in the country I live in who know me, know nothing of these losses. I lost my voice & confidence to share about these deep things. A forum like this can be so valueable….where people can share & find and give support.

ijwoods - February 18, 2013

Elizabeth, I can’t imagine how deeply your losses affected you. I hope you will feel comfortable to comment and contribute as you are inspired to do so. I’d love to read your thoughts.

ijwoods - February 18, 2013

Thanks Joy. Please don’t hesitate to write or comment on anything written.

9. Sherman Wing - February 18, 2013

Thank you Ira, you and your site will help comfort and guide many on their journey. We’re not an island and there are others who do understand what is happening.

ijwoods - February 18, 2013

Hi Sherman, it’s great to receive your encouragement. I have only gratitude and appreciation for the support and inspiration you gave me when things were the roughest. Being able to speak to someone who went through something similar, and who is as caring as you, is invaluable.

10. David Barbour - February 23, 2013

Ira, I just finished Skyping for an hour with my 89-year-old dad. We talked about how we want to relate to each other in the time remaining to us. My heart aches with the poignancy of the issues you are addressing.

11. Bob Manrodt - March 29, 2013

Thanks for this page Ira. I’m a cancer survivor of almost 15 years. My doctors are amazed that I’m still here. I do live with serious after-effects of treatment which are ongoing life challenges. Despite the problems I am grateful to be here. To me, coming to terms with death is crucially important. Indeed, my daily meditative practices include focus on the dying process.

ijwoods - March 29, 2013

Hi Bob, it’s good to hear from you. Congratulations on your fighting spirit and ability to stick around. The fact that there’s no escape from death is pretty evident, but confronting the reality of it can be surprising, especially when it’s someone you really love. Then again, I suppose each circumstance is different as well. I heard a report two days ago that more people than ever are choosing to die at home. This means we all need to be a little more prepared to help someone who’s made that choice. As they transition out of our world we can make it as simple and as comfortable as possible.

12. assisted living - April 14, 2013

Fabulous info! My Wife And I definitely added your blog so I could stay informed about all your good stuff

ijwoods - May 27, 2013

Thanks for your note and sorry for the very late reply. I have been in Asia for the past six weeks with intermittent internet access.

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