Rodney Smith, who has lived in a monastic community in the West and as a Buddhist monk in Asia, has spent the last 15 years as a caregiver and director of hospice programs across the United States. In this extraordinary volume, he opens our hearts, minds, and souls to the great mystery we all must face.

Smith has assembled many enlightening stories about the various ways people have dealt with the end of their lives. He tells of a Thai practice where the ashes of the dead person are put in an urn. Buddhist monks then connect a string to the urn so that everyone present at the ceremony can be directly connected to the remains. Here Smith connects us to death with meditations on becoming defenseless, learning from every experience, listening from the heart, understanding suffering, letting go and trusting, and finding meaning.

"To grow spiritually is to foster a relationship with death," Smith writes. He shows how dying strips away everything that has kept us separate from others. It cuts away all inessentials and silences doing. Death subdues the self and puts an end to pride. In the last several chapters, Smith enables us to marvel at the mystery of the last act in the drama of life.