Dr. Ira Byock has devoted more than 25 years to caring for seriously ill patients and their loved ones. He is the author of Dying Well: The Prospect for Growth at the End of Life and currently serves as director of palliative medicine at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center. In this helpful work, Byock looks at four simple statements — eleven words in all — that can bring immense relief and healing power to those facing death. They are: Please forgive me. I forgive you. Thank you. I love you. He notes: "These four short sentences carry the core of wisdom of what people who are dying have taught me about what matters most in life."

We are happy to see that these pivotal statements are part of the alphabet of spiritual practices highlighted on this website: forgiveness, gratitude, and love. Byock uses many stories from his work to relate how individuals have dealt with unfinished business during their last days. Many begin by forgiving others, healing the rifts that have caused pain and grief in the past. Byock writes: "Forgiveness is a passage to a sanctuary of wholeness, that nurturing place where we feel intimately connected to the people who matter most to us. It is a place of healing and transformation. In it, we feel the perfect fullness of the present."

Others use their dying days to acknowledge with gratitude the good things they have experienced. Finally, the dying usually make an effort to express love to those who are near and dear. Byock has put his finger on some simple and elegant truths about what matters most.