Companions for the Passage

Stories of the Intimate Privilege of Accompanying the Dying
Marjorie Ryerson
With a foreword by Thomas Moore
Stories of people who have been with and cared for a loved one at the moment of death


Companions for the Passage , from the author of the acclaimed Water Music, is an unforgettable book on a rarely visited subject: the personal stories of those who have witnessed the death of a loved one. Similar to works of Studs Terkel, author Marjorie Ryerson 's interviews capture the human condition through their wide variety of experiences and voices.

Some of the interviewees are religious, some not; some encouraged their loved ones to accept death, others to fight it to the end. There are stories of heroic nurses and of indifferent hospital bureaucracies, of deaths that came too soon, and those that came at the end of a long, rich life. Possessing an affirmative quality that is anything but sentimental, ultimately these stories celebrate the experience of being present at the death of a loved one.

Listen to an interview with Marjorie Ryerson on Patient Power with Andrew Schorr

Marjorie Ryerson teaches Communications at Castleton State College, as well as poetry at the Bread Loaf Writer's Conference. Her previous book, Water Music (University of Michigan Press, 2003), collected the writings of sixty-six world class musicians. Writer and philosopher Thomas Moore is the author of Care of the Soul and Soul Mates.

Praise / Awards

  • "In a society which denies death Marjorie Ryerson's book can help everyone awaken to the beauty and meaning of life. Death is the greatest teacher I know of, about life, and by sharing the stories within this book with us she will help us all to live fuller, more meaningful lives."
    —Bernie Siegel, MD author Help Me To Heal and 365 Prescriptions For The Soul

  • "Companions for the Passage provides a unique look at the ways people adapt to loss. These are powerful stories for anyone who has experienced the death of a loved one."
    —J. Donald Schumacher, President and CEO National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization

  • "Ryerson offers us the rare opportunity to free ourselves from fear and recognize in our own lives the power of love and the presence of mystery. A book for anyone who has ever wondered what it takes to face the unknown."
    —Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D., author of Kitchen Table Wisdom and My Grandfather's Blessings

  • "This is a beautiful collection of human stories, told by caregivers, physicians, and others, that reveal a range of experiences of humans as they confront death. The stories are heartbreaking, real, sad, and funny, and show us in our humanity and connectedness. They will be of value to health professional students seeking to understand the human experience of dying and caregiving, as well as to lay people who are seeking companionship as they confront the task of accompanying a loved one on the path towards death."
    —Susan Block, M.D. Associate Professor of Psychiatry (Medicine), Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women's Hospital, Co-Director, HMS Center for Palliative Care, Harvard Medical School

  • "Reading the similar experiences of others was consoling and supportive during this time of my grieving. This book should be on every hospice book shelf. It is excellent for anyone dealing with terminal illness or the grief of the loss of a loved one."
    —"Hey Jude",

  • "Each story has power, and reading them all together has the potential to truly shift a reader's thinking. Companions of the Passage is not just a good book, it's also important."
    Concord Monitor

  • "The voices that Ryerson weaves together in this book are at times blunt, confused, humorous, and full of the wisdom that only comes from direct experience with death. They provide a quiet camaraderie to the reader. . . . If you know anyone going through the stages of grief, or coming to terms with the death of a loved one, Companions for the Passage will help them on their journey."
    —Shay Totten, Vermont Review of Books

  • "The 13 chapters of Marjorie Ryerson's book are the voices of people who accompanied others on their final passage. The interviewees tell their stories about what it was like to simply be there, without authorial interpretation . . . . [A] well-rendered collection of lived experience."

  • ". . . though, culturally, the subject seems taboo . . . Marjorie Ryerson of Vermont believes stories about dying are not only worth telling but are also vehicles for healing and understanding. . . . Companions for the Passage is not just a good book, it's also important."
    —Rebecca Rule, Nashua Telegraph

Look Inside

Copyright © 2005, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • 5-1/2 x 8-1/2.
  • 192pp.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 2005
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-03078-1

Add to Cart
  • $17.00 U.S.