A few days ago Sherwin B. Nuland died. Some of you may know him as the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning and bestselling book How We Die, published in 1994. Nuland sought to dispel the popular myth that most deaths take place the way they do in the movies – a few poignant, funny or enigmatic last words, then the eyes closing and then a peaceful and swift slipping away. As a doctor Nuland knew that only a few have the good fortune to end like that, and he did not flinch to describe in detail what it is often really like. It is for the most part pretty much how the Buddha described it – dukkha, sometimes extreme dukkha. Nuland added to this that modern medicine sometimes actually adds to the dukkha by prolonging it. Only recently I read an article in the local newspaper about the death by cancer of a Singaporean personality. The writer commented approvingly that “she fought it to the last”. This unhelpful attitude, so widely promoted nowadays, is also a cause of a great deal of pain and suffering in the months or weeks leading to up to death. The old idea of having the wisdom of knowing when your time has come, accepting it, and letting the process take its course, doesn’t accord with the popular insistence of putting a positive spin on everything. Nuland wrote: “If the classical image of dying with dignity must be modified or even discarded, what is to be salvaged of our hope for the final memories we leave to those who love us? The dignity we seek in dying must be found in the dignity with which we have lived our lives.” Nuland was 83 and he died of can prostate cancer. I hope it was for him a peaceful and easy end.