How to Honor Life at the End of Life

Pictured BJ Miller: After a horrific accident,
he built a life helping others who are nearing death.

Michael Corthell, Editor

“What I mostly remember is waking up about a week later, feeling the way you do when coming out of a bad dream. But when I jumped out of the hospital bed, ripping all the tubes out of me, trying to walk, and falling in a heap on the floor, I realized that the nightmare had actually been true,” he recalls.

Miller says he has no regrets — not even for the injury. “Too much good stuff has come out of it,” he says. “I was not headed toward a career in medicine before the accident, and I don’t think I’d be as good a palliative-care physician if I hadn’t had that experience. Every day I feel I have a head start when I meet patients and their families, because they know I’ve been in that bed. That can take us to a much more trusting place more quickly.”

He has cared for thousands of people as they lived out their last days. “Mortality is an incredible unifying force, because 100 percent of us die,” reflects Miller, the executive director of the Zen Hospice Project, a residential facility for dying patients in San Francisco. “It unites us across cultures, wealth, and age.”


''What really matters at the end of life''
by BJ Miller

At the end of our lives, what do we most wish for? For many, it’s simply comfort, respect, love. BJ Miller is a palliative care physician who thinks deeply about how to create a dignified, graceful end of life for his patients. Take the time to savor this moving talk, which asks big questions about how we think on death and honor life.