Dear Barbara, I am 90 years old and have been healthy for most of those years. I take a thyroid pill and have a bit of arthritis. I am active, do yoga, and lead an independent life. Being old and healthy, my question is how am I going to die? Do you think I’ll just not wake up some morning?

At first I was startled by the honesty of this edited email, by the question of how am I going to die? As I thought about how to respond to her I realized on some level we all wonder how we will die. It is probably on a deep, hidden level but there, hiding, waiting for our quieter moments.

I also thought as we get older that question tends to come out of hiding more easily. The older we are the more the question lies in the back of our mind. Old people die! How will it be? When will it come? Aren’t there poems about this sort of thinking?

After replying below to this lovely lady I thought about her and decided since I don’t think she is the only one with thoughts of “How, will I die?” I would like to share my response to her in this blog.

“First, what a great body and mind you have to be serving you so well at 90 years old. Now, about the question of how might you die? That is a question a lot of us ask ourselves, particularly as we age.

To answer you, I have no idea. You could develop a life threatening illness.

You could fall, have a stroke, a heart attack, get run over by a bus, be in a car accident or die in your sleep. From what you have told me your body is not giving you any signs of ill health so there are no hints.

None of us know until we do. Until a doctor says I can’t fix you or until life intervenes and we die what I call a fast (unexpected) death. 

From your description you are living a great life; healthy and active. Make each day meaningful so that if you don’t wake up some morning your life will have been the best you could have lived it. 

My life mantra is to find peace of mind, joy and fulfillment in each day. I wish you that as well.”

Something More about…  How Am I Going To Die?  When Will It Come?

I encourage all of us to have our Advanced Directives in place and let our loved ones know our wishes.  I like this guidebook: A Practical Guide for End of Life.  This uniquely authored 40 page workbook is designed to guide individuals and/or families in planning for end of life and after life care.


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Barbara Karnes Registered Nurse

Barbara Karnes, RN Award Winning End of Life Educator, Award Winning Nurse, NHPCO Hospice Innovator Award Winner 2018 & 2015 International Humanitarian Woman of the Year

While at the bedside of hundreds of people during the dying process, Hospice Pioneer Barbara Karnes noticed that each death was following a near identical script. Each person was going through the stages of death in almost the same manner and most families came to her with similar questions. These realizations led Barbara to sit down and write Gone From My Sight, "The Little Blue Book" that changed the hospice industry.