Pat McNees

Writer, editor, ghostwriter, personal historian

Quick Links

Find Authors

Selections from Dying, A Book of Comfort, plus extra material

"I don't think people are afraid of death. What they are afraid of is the incompleteness of their life."
—A 30-year-old man dying of leukemia, in Death and the Creative Life by Lisl Goodman

"For two years . . . I was just as crazy as you can be and still be at large. I didn't have any really normal minutes during those two years. It wasn't just grief. It was total confusion. I was nutty, and that's the truth. How did I come out of it? I don't know, because I didn't know when I was in it that I was in it."
— Helen Hayes, the actress, on the death of her husband Charles MacArthur

"The most I ever did for you, was to outlive you,
But that is much.
—Edna St. Vincent Millay

Leonard Matlovich, an Air Force Tech Sergeant who did three tours in Vietnam, later died of AIDS. Anger gives power to the epitaph on his gravestone in Congressional Cemetery, in Washington, D.C.:

When I was in the military
They gave me a medal for killing two men
And a discharge for loving one.
—A gay Vietnam veteran

We sometimes congratulate ourselves at the moment of waking from a troubled dream; it may be so the moment after death.
— Nathaniel Hawthorne

And time remembered is grief forgotten,
And frosts are slain and flowers begotten,
And in green underwood and cover
Blossom by blossom the spring begins.
—Algernon Charles Swinburne

Grief can be the garden of compassion.
—Jelaluddin Rumi

Thoughts on Life and Death

If I Had My Life To Live Over

I'd dare to make more mistakes next time. I'd relax.
I would limber up. I would be sillier than I have been this trip. I would take fewer things seriously. I would take more chances. I would take more trips. I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers.
I would eat more ice cream and less beans.
I would perhaps have more actual troubles, but I'd have fewer imaginary ones.

You see, I am one of those people who live sensibly and sanely hour after hour, day after day. Oh, I've had my moments and if I had it to do over again, I'd have more of them. In fact, I'd try to have nothing else. Just moments. One after another, instead
]of living so many years ahead of each day. I've been one of those people who never go anywhere without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a raincoat and a parachute. If I had it to do over again, I would travel lighter than I have.

If I had my life to live over, I would start barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall. I would go to more dances. I would ride more merry-go-rounds. I would pick more daisies.
—attributed to Nadine Stair, an 85-year-old Kentucky woman

If I'd known how long I was going to live, I would have taken better care of myself.
—Attributed to Eubie Blake

It's nice to give people a sense of the life of the person being remembered. When my mother died, after a long and difficult illness, at a service we conducted ourselves we emphasized her life story (see Eulogy), so all the young people who came to say goodbye would have a sense of her life and times, and what she was like when she was young and vibrant.

Here's a poem written by a Canadian physician in Flanders, Belgium, after he had buried a friend in a makeshift grave. It was not included in the anthology but speaks to the sacrifices made by the soldiers who fight our wars:

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
John McCrae, 1915

Books, articles, and more

Writing or telling life stories
Storykeepers, personal historians, oral historians, video biographers, genealogists. Everyone has a story to tell. What's keeping you from telling yours?
A loving testament, or legacy letter, sharing your life experiences and lessons with the next generation
Learn to write articles, reports, ethical wills, or life stories (memoirs and beyond).
Mom — hardworking, sassy, and full of surprises
Mutual support and discussion
Social history through the life of an ordinary Midwestern businessman.
Dancing, food, good books, and other diversions
Favorites of several book groups
What is the single lunch-bag item most hated by all children?
What heightens the caviar experience is the price of those little gray or black sturgeon eggs.
Links to dancing venues and calendars for the Washington, D.C. area.
Midlife "first dates"
Did she fall in love with the man or the waltz?
Also related: jive, hustle, hand-dancing.
All the dancing your feet can take
Choosing a school of dance
Contra, English country, international, Irish, Israeli, Scandinavian, Scottish
The big ones, with dirty stems
"A rich, varied, and highly rewarding collection," says Joyce Carol Oates
Ceilis (Irish dancing)
Medical mysteries, patient stories, and practical links
John Travolta played the boy in the movie. The real story ended far differently.
Thin little Marian had a cholesterol problem most people have never heard of.
Understanding the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the debate on health care reform. Avoiding medical errors
Organizational histories
Changing Times, Changing Minds: 100 Years of Psychiatry at the University of Maryland
You've probably never heard of this national research hospital and clinic. But someone you know may be able to benefit from it directly and all of us do, indirectly.
A frank history of the Young Presidents' Organization.
The little lift truck that could — a story of brilliant marketing in America's heartland.
Dying, mourning, and other inevitable events
"This remarkable collection, coming from personal experience and wide reading, will help many find the potential of growth through loss." --Dame Cicely Saunders, founder of the hospice movement
For those dying, for caregivers, and for the bereaved
Listen to samples of popular songs and music
Girls and science
Cool science sites
Best practices for teaching science--to strengthen the science workforce.
Some links and a selection
Practical matters
Identify children's learning styles and improve their ability to learn.
Six weeks to hassle-free homework.
Why parents should be concerned.
Public speaking is a craft, not an art. It can be learned.
Can you wash it if it says "dry clean"?
Fact vs. fantasy
One woman's story.
Don't focus on the fabric.
Online Shopping
Best places to shop online