Death of You, The: A Book for Anyone Who Might Not Live Forever By Miguel Chen, 152 pgs.

Apr 06, 2020

At the end of 2019 I experienced a lot of loss. First was my dad in mid-October, then it was three friends within eight days. Two of those were back to back. It felt like just when I started getting used to those feelings of grief—or thought I was—another one hit harder. In a way I was closer to accepting the news of each passing friend as I went to four memorials in a week’s time.

I almost bought this book from Miguel after his yoga session at Fest, but didn’t feel like I was ready for it yet, so I grabbed his other book first. Then I put off my grief about my dad as long as possible. (Four months later there’s still a massive box of photos I haven’t had the energy to look through.) But after that second run of loss, I knew I needed to dig into this book. Miguel’s last one taught me how to adopt gratitude just for being alive and inspired me to change the name of my alarm to “Happy to be here,” so it’s the first thing I see every day. I got deeper into a meditation practice and became calmer as well as mindful.

For Death of You however, I needed to face hard truths full on. We are all going to die someday. Yeah, it’s not a shock to most people. But for me, I’ve often let the fear of dying occupy my mind in a way that causes intense anxiety. Reading through this book and practicing some of the meditations Miguel lays out have really helped me curb that.

He goes through stages of grief, outlines his own experience losing close family and friends, learns how to accept the inevitable, and breaks down ways to deal with the many causes of death. Within that he includes unexpected loss, ones you could kind of see coming (terminal illness, old age), suicide, and murder. None of this is easy to process, and he also explains that the stages of grief (DABDA: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) don’t always happen in a specific order.

Some of the meditations offered in here help establish a meditation foundation: finding moments of peace; exploring what our own personal version of hell looks like; avoiding distraction and embracing wholeness; forgiveness; and, finally, our own death. In the last one, Miguel teaches the nine Buddhist contemplations of death. Throughout the entire book, he keeps the language non-denominational and open for each person’s individual belief system.

While I’m not quite ready for the death meditation, all of the practices and words of wisdom are extremely helpful. Miguel writes in a very conversational tone, which makes the book very accessible. I love that all of this comes from the mind of a punk (bassist of Teenage Bottlerocket!), but he opens it up to any living person grappling with these parts of our existence. –Kayla Greet (Wisdom Publications, 199 Elm St., Somerville, MA 02144)