In 2017, Wendy had the honor of being the artist-in-residence at Zen Hospice, a six-bed hospice house in San Francisco. Over the course of a year, she spent many afternoons inside the house. She spoke with people experiencing their last stage of life - learning about their memories, fears, joys and regrets. She sat with family members coming to terms with the loss of their loved ones. And she interviewed professional caregivers who, for very little money, performed some of the most loving, heroic, and deeply human acts that one person can do for another. As she witnessed this final chapter of life, she used her pen and watercolors to record the quiet conversations and silent observations.
The result is “How to Say Goodbye; The Wisdom of Hospice Caregivers.” The book combines drawings Wendy drew from life while inside The Guest House with words of hospice caregivers she interviewed. First published as a limited edition art book, a new edition will be published by Bloomsbury in July 2023. The new edition includes a foreword from Dr. BJ Miller, one of the nation’s foremost experts on death and dying, and a section of helpful resources. In its entirety, the book shares what Wendy learned about how to be with people at the end of their lives: how presence is love. What we can do for people. And what we can’t.
You can pre-order it here:
“A poem to mortality and the beauty of how we can cope with it.
– Atul Gawande, author of Being Mortal
“There are many kinds of grace in this little book – in its portrayals of the body language and expressions of the dying, the the simple language which clarifies what we can and should do when we accompany someone on their journey to death, in the underlying kindness that runs throughout.
– Rebecca Solnit, author of Hope in the Dark
“How To Say Goodbye shows us death as it can and should be, but often isn't: accessible, profound, moving, and beautiful. A unique and much-needed addition to the literature about death and dying.
– Louise Aronson, MD, author of Elderhood
“Like singing bowls whose sounds reverberate through us, MacNaughton's drawings resonate emotional tones of the tender moments she deftly portrays.
– Ira Byock, MD, author of Dying Well
“With keen eyes, a skillful hand, and a warm heart, MacNaughton has created a teaching manual on how to say goodbye. The quality of her attention, her exquisite drawings, and the honesty of her observations are a gift to all of us as we face death in its many forms.
– Mary Pipher, author of Women Rowing North
“This beautiful little book is luminous and dark, heavy and light, heartbreaking and glorious. It's a gift to see the world through Wendy MacNaughton's eyes.
– Lucy Kalanithi, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Stanford University School of Medicine