This is a book of spiritual practices, rituals, and personal stories that we might call “necessary” wisdom: wisdom that we would probably avoid, if we could. But everyone dies, and every person must face the death of someone they love sooner or later. For that reason, the book is unique and important.

Anne-Marie Keppel is a death doula — a companion to those who are dying, just as the more common birth doula is a companion to someone about to give birth. Keppel cares for people through their dying process and teaches friends and community how to help their dying loved one through the dying, the post-mortem, and the final disposition (how remains are to be handled).

The title of her book is a phrase she describes on the first page: “Death nesting is about preparing the nest for one who is dying, just as we might prepare a nest for one who is about to give birth.” Spiritual practices of compassion and hospitality are in abundance here.

Part one describes how a death doula’s work moves beyond hospice care and beyond advance directives. Part two is all about what she calls “preparing the nest.” This involves counseling, advising, and preparing the inner circle of caregivers who will be surrounding the dying person.

The next three parts of the book focus on the dying person and the experiences they will encounter. After this there are short chapters for caregivers (e.g. “When what is happening is against your desires”) followed by others on how to talk with children about death, and finally a section on what happens after the last breath is taken.

Keppel’s approach is always gentle and informative. A trained nurse assistant, she is also a Reiki Master and an expert in green burial, both of which are in evidence throughout the book. She also gives very practical details, such as lists of what to pack in a hospital bag — for the dying person and for the caregiver — and mindfulness practices for steps along the way.