This is the story of John. He died recently in a village in what I think is the most beautiful part of my country, England. During his long life, John lived and worked in many places, but he died 5 miles away from where he was born. He was 85 years old when he died.

John was a quiet, even shy man. But he had a wide range of interests. He had a deep love of music. He could make and repair almost anything. And above all, he was truly alive when he was deep in the mountains, in particular the mountains shown in the picture.

When he retired, he designed and built a house with a spectacular view of his beloved mountains. He made it clear that when the time came, he wanted to die within sight of these mountains.

John had a long and happy retirement. But when he was 84, he found that he had cancer and it was clear that he did not have long to live.

Then something magical happened. A whole host of friends and family arranged in an entirely natural way so that John and his wife had all the help and support that they needed. It was never intrusive. But it was always there and it was always available.

In addition to this unobtrusive network of friends and family, the medical profession provided a remarkably co-ordinated system of support. Nurses would visit up to 4 times a day to make sure that John and his wife had everything they needed. When the situation became a difficult, a nurse would stay all night to make sure that John was comfortable and it is wife could get some rest. The medical services did many more things with all this was done without a single piece of paper to sign or a penny to pay.

John died peacefully in his house and the mountains were right there outside his window.

I have thought about these events a lot and have learned many things from them. But here is one idea that I would like to share with you. Here we had an informal community that worked to ensure that a human being died in peace and dignity in his own home. That community was made up of experts, friends, ‘experts who became friends’ and ‘friends who were experts’ who made that happen without formality or fuss. That is a powerful combination of talents and all of them can contribute to Community Life Competence.

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Comment by Tianfang Liu on August 12, 2014 at 5:22pm

Hi, Phil. May I say it's a pity that I didn't read your story until now, but it's so lucky that I have read it now with Rituu's help.

What it impressed me most is dying at home (the place where we were born and grew up). Is it true that most people like to die at home with family's and friends' accompany, which is an important factor constributes to peaceful dying?

Last Sunday is our tranditional festival when we send "money", by burning "cash" made of staw paper, to our late relatives. By this I mean this is a way to keep in touch with the late people because we believe they live in another world (Heaven, etc.)  

Almost all religions, except science, indicate people died would go to another world. In this sense, it is not necessary, I assume, for us to have the word "die".

Comment by Olivia Munoru on March 7, 2013 at 5:55pm

Powerful. Beautiful. Resonates with everyone. 

Comment by Laurence Gilliot on March 7, 2013 at 9:34am

Hi Phil,

Thanks for sharing this story. It is touching because it is beautiful. It touches me because it reminds me of the natural process of dying, not a over-medicalised one, close to home, peacefully. I read in the Tibentan book of Living and Dying that the way one dies reflects who we have lived. If we cultivate peace today, we have a bigger chance of dying peacefully too :-)

What was your role in this process with John?

Take care!


Comment by Dr. Mukesh Bhachawat on February 14, 2013 at 6:27pm

powerful story . Everybody has to die one day !!  but really john Lived a joyful & fulfilled life ..

thanks Phil  for sharing the story.

Comment by Rituu B. Nanda on February 14, 2013 at 4:05pm
Marion Zibelli thanks for sharing this moving story, Rituu. Hope you are good. Marion
Comment by Rituu B. Nanda on February 14, 2013 at 4:03pm
Suresh Sureshkumar What is it about mountains that creates such communities, I wonder! Is it the realization in a more profound manner, that we need one another? Beautiful story - thank you for sharing.
Comment by Susan Koshy on February 13, 2013 at 6:37pm

Wow! To have such a community is a blessing really. John lived a fulfilled life and died in a fulfilled passing on. Thank you, Phil for sharing this story.


Comment by Marlou on February 11, 2013 at 5:05pm

Thanks Phil. When I saw the title of your blog I shivered as a natural reaction. I am far from death competent that I know!  Death will continue to 'surprise' us and in many cases will come more brutal, more unexpected then it came for John.  I think we all have experiences when we were less and more competent to accompany a dying person and his loved ones.  I think I thought that was depending on how death presents itself, on the age of the person and 'external' factors as access to care. Your story of a level 5 death ànd community life competence around that, helped me realise that when we carefully think through the good practices around 'dying peacefully', based on our experiences, that will help us also to become more prepared/competent for coping with the less peaceful events. Thanks Phil.

Comment by Rituu B. Nanda on February 9, 2013 at 7:21pm

Dear Phil,

This is such a powerful story. We talk about all things in life but find it hard to talk about death, about our own death, the implications it can it have on our loved ones. Neither do our loved ones want to discuss it when a person does want to share. I am happy to talk about my own death but no one in my family wants to discuss it.

I like this quote “Death ends a life, not a relationship.” ― Mitch Albom, Tuesdays With Morrie

Warm regards,



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