How Did Sherwin B. Nuland Die? and Other Links

I was sad to learn that doctor and author Sherwin B. Nuland died last month. His amazing book How We Die, which won the National Book Award, had a powerful effect on me. In it Nuland took the top five causes of death and then showed exactly how one dies from each of these things.

Don’t read the next part if you don’t want to know the truth, and the truth is not pretty: he showed how a death with dignity is pretty much impossible to achieve. Death is messy and scary and painful and horrible. That said, it’s a moving and compassionate book. I was able to take a few sentences from the section about murder and quote them in The Restless Sleep, my book about unsolved murder, in order to give comfort to the parent of a murdered child. Believe it or not, there was actually comfort to be had there.

Here’s his obituary from the New York Times. It ends as Nuland’s book ends:

“And so, if the classic image of dying with dignity must be modified or even discarded,” he wrote, “what is to be salvaged of our hope for the final memories we leave to those who love us? The dignity we seek in dying must be found in the dignity with which we have lived our lives.”

Other links: I watched and studied this brilliant panel from the always brilliant Randall Monroe and his web comic xkcd, “a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language.” I thought Randall would be ruling the world by now. Oh god. He probably IS.

Photographer Elizabeth Herman. Her work from “A Woman’s War” was deservedly featured in the Times. The pictures and testimonies from her subjects woke me up and enlightened me in a way that the news never does.

Finally, for the life of me I can’t remember how I came across this guy’s blog, but he posts a lot about music, reads the same books I do, (he recently posted about Matt Taibbi’s new book, which I haven’t read, technically, but I’m going to!) and comes across as such a smart, informed, charming, likable guy. His “about” section doesn’t say a word! The blog is called: A Year of Guys ~ Talking with Silas, John, J.S., Spencer, Manny, and the Fed.

Here’s his first post, where he explains the intention behind his blog. I was hoping he’d say his name! I just searched on “music” and now I know how I came across his blog. In my daily narcissistic frenzy, when I scour the internet to see how my book is doing, I found a post about my book on his blog (he was a couple of chapters in and liked it so far). Mystery solved. Bottom line: it’s a blog worth following.

Balloons. I love taking picture of people trying to make their way through the city carrying tons of balloons.


Stacy Horn

I've written six non-fiction books, the most recent is Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York.

View all posts by Stacy Horn →

3 thoughts on “How Did Sherwin B. Nuland Die? and Other Links

  1. I read Sherwin B. Nuland’s book; it was incredibly interesting. My late husband’s father died of stomach cancer and it was horrific. He had Hospice care at home, but for everyone in the family, it was emotionally devastating.

    When my husband learned he had acute leukemia, I could see the fear in his eyes. He was career law enforcement, but truly his one worst fear was cancer. When he died just a week after diagnosis, after his first chemo, I was devastated — but, in some deep way, glad he didn’t have to go through the horrific suffering like his dad.

    At any rate, sorry to learn of Nuland’s death.

  2. Because of a clerical problem with my elderly mother’s Do Not Resuscitate order, she was revived 3 times within the space of about 4 or 5 hours. (My mother had suffered from depression for many years, as well as vascular dementia and lung cancer later on). Neither my brother nor I could be reached by phone for a few hours that day. When I arrived at the hospital, she had been intubated and the emergency room physician had been waiting for arrival of a family member to get permission to remove the tube. I will spare everyone the details, but there was nothing peaceful about my mother’s death, which came very shortly after the tube was removed. The next day, my brother & I were in the office of the funeral director and he was going over the obituary I had written for my mother. The word I had left out from the obit on purpose was “peacefully.” The director suggested we put it in and it bothers me to this day that I let him. There was nothing peaceful about her death, nor about the 3 times she had been revived earlier that day.

  3. Oh Cara, oh Nora.

    Yeah. I am still haunted by my mother’s death and I hope I have the chance to do better for someone else sometome. Although a number of things were done right in my mother’s case, thanks to my brothers and their wives. They arranged for her to be at home, and other things.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap