Episode 136: Diane Button, End-of-Life Doula
On this episode, Karen speaks with Diane R. Button. Diane is a founding partner of the Bay Area End-of-Life Doula Alliance in Northern California, and an instructor for the University of Vermont Larner College of Medicine End-of-Life Doula Professional Certificate Program. Her latest book, Dear Death, combines the insights gained from her research on "The Four Pillars of a Meaningful Life," with over a decade working with hospice and doula clients in their final days. Diane is the creator and Director of Dream of Better World, a non-profit founded in 2008 with a two-fold mission: to support disadvantaged children and families around the world, and to inspire everyone to realize, "You're never too young, or too old, to make a difference!"
Diane Button Bio
Diane Button has a passion for having deep and meaningful conversations about life and death. She is the author of the bestselling new release, Dear Death: Finding Meaning in Life, Peace in Death, and Joy in an Ordinary Day and the Dear Death Companion Guide. She is a practicing end-of-life doula and a founding partner of Bay Area End of Life Doula Alliance in Northern California. Diane has been sitting vigil with the dying for over 15 years, is a former National End of Life Doula Alliance (NEDA) board member, and is INELDA certified. She holds a Master’s in Counseling Psychology from Goddard College in Vermont. Her master’s thesis, The Components of a Meaningful Life, became the genesis for her life’s work of supporting people to find meaning in life and peace in death. She is a Lead Instructor with the University of Vermont’s End-of-Life Doula Certificate Program offered through the Larner College of Medicine.
In addition to her work with the dying, Diane is the Director of Dream of a Better World, a worldwide 501(c)3 non-profit. She is the author of several other books and trainings, including The Letter Box, a legacy project that has been translated into several languages. Her work has been featured in numerous publications, podcasts, and other media venues including the NY Times, Marketwatch, Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper, Compassion and Choices Magazine, Hour of Power, University of Vermont, UCSF, and Stanford. She also leads retreats focused on the Four Pillars of a Meaningful Life. You can find out more about Diane, her books, and her work at DianeButton.com.
Intro Voices 00:04
Where do I go? It only happened. I was singled out the phone calls began about one month ago. What is hazing? Something happened to me when I was a girl. I'm worried about my safety. He said he was sorry, can someone help me? Where can I get help? Can someone help me?
Karen Ortman 00:30
This is you matter, a podcast for the NYU community developed by the Department of campus safety. Hi, everyone and welcome back to you matter, a podcast created to teach, inspire and motivate members of the NYU community who have been victimized in some form or fashion and to identify resources both on and off campus that can help. I am your host Karen Ortman, Associate Vice President of campus safety operations at the Department of campus safety, and a retired law enforcement professional. Today I welcome Diane button, a founding partner of the Bay Area end of life doula Alliance in Northern California, and an instructor for the University of Vermont Lerner College of Medicine, end of life doula Professional Certificate Program. Her latest book, dear death, combines the insights gained from her research on the four pillars of a meaningful life. With over a decade working with hospice and doula clients in their final days. Diane is the creator and director of dream of better world, a nonprofit founded in 2008, with a two fold mission to support disadvantaged children and families around the world. And to inspire everyone to realize you're never too young or too old to make a difference. Diane, welcome to you matter.
Diane Button 01:54
Thank you. Thank you for having me here.
Karen Ortman 01:57
Share with our listeners, if you will - what is an end of life doula?
Diane Button 02:04
Well, an end of life doula is really a companion for the dying. And not only the dying, but for their loved ones and their broader circle of care. So what we offer is emotional, spiritual and practical support to our clients. So the goal is really so that they're prepared to die, but they're also ready to live fully until that time comes. So we work with them both in life and in preparation for death.
Karen Ortman 02:34
Are end of life doulas medical professionals?
Diane Button 02:40
No, it's actually the opposite. An end of life. doula is a non medical person, we leave the medical off to the side. That's for doctors, nurses, and the hospice team to take care of. We do consider ourselves a bridge though. So we work closely with hospice. And we'll update them with it with you know, as needed with our clients. So we're often the ones who spend longer periods of time with the dying person and their loved ones. So we might notice shifts and changes in the way that our client is progressing. And in that way, we just work really well with the medical team, but we are entirely non medical.
Karen Ortman 03:17
Okay. What is the training evolved to be a end of life doula?
Diane Button 03:24
Well, that's an interesting question, because it kind of takes me back to earlier days when basically everyone was an end of life doula, you know, we had doctors making doctor calls and families caring for the dying at home. And so everyone kind of was a doula. But these days, it's a lot different. And there's become a profession basically around providing comfort and supporting the dying. So there's lots of training programs across the country and abroad. But I guess I would emphasize that anyone who wants to do this work should really look deeply at what each training includes. So it's comprehensive and detailed, so that people learn about being with the dying the needs of the dying, about working with hospice and palliative care and the different conversations that need to be had, you know, understanding nearing death visions and such, and holding space for all the emotions, you need to learn how to be with a dying. But the one thing that I think is really critical and a training to look for, is making sure that you get an opportunity to do your own work as well. Because, you know, if you don't know what your own fears are, and your own triggers are, and what is your personal relationship to grief and loss, you're gonna have a hard time to hold space with full intention for someone else. So I think it's really important to find a training program where you also do your own work.
Karen Ortman 04:50
Are these training programs offered in colleges such as the University of Vermont where you teach exclusively or are They in some other location that might not be, you know, an institution of higher learning or some other educational space like yes,
Diane Button 05:13
there are organizations around the country and worldwide that just offer end of life doula trainings, and some are going back to in person trainings. Our program at the University of Vermont is eight weeks and it's exclusively online right now. But some of the if you look in your communities, you might find a training that is in person, which is also nice because you get to learn more about your own local resources and such. But, but there are programs that are independent programs and you can send people to the national end of life doula Alliance website, it's we call it Nida. And they offer a listing of trainings and also a listing of doulas for people who might be wanting to find a doula.
Karen Ortman 05:58
Great, thank you. Can anyone be an end of life? doula?
Diane Button 06:06
Yes. I mean, basically, like I said, I kind of think back to when everyone sort of was an end of life doula, but I think that, you know, most people who become an end of life doula feel called to do this work. Or they might have had some personal experience with a death that made them wish they had a doula or, or want to have more information themselves to be prepared for when people die. And even nurse nurses, doctors, chaplains, and social workers. Take the course as a way to lean into death and dying, you know, a topic that is often overlooked in school. So anyone can be a doula, but it's definitely not work that is interesting to every single person. Yeah. What qualities
Karen Ortman 06:48
do you think must be present for someone to be an effective? End of Life? doula?
Diane Button 06:57
That's a great question. Well, first of all, you have to have a compassionate heart, and be a really good listener. And you have to be willing to be open, you have to be willing to make space for really hard and difficult conversations. And you also have to be able to hold your own judgments and your own opinions. You know, you have to keep things to yourself and meet your client where they are, because this is very important. This is, you know, their final transition, you know, their end of life. And so we need to show up and realize that everybody's journey is unique. So it's great to be curious. It's great to be curious about your client's life, their fears, and their story, you know, their life story. And then sometimes you have to be willing to turn towards suffering and turn towards some hard things and just fully show up no matter what emotions are in the room.
Karen Ortman 07:54
This is a service that I had never before heard of, until I came across you and your book. What is a doula?
Diane Button 08:05
Well, the term doula literally means one who serves okay. And so it's very, it's it we serve the dying, we're companions to the dying. There's a lot of other names for end of life. doulas, like death doula death midwife Transition Guide. There's a lot of different names. But really I look at it doula as a companion for the dying and their loved ones.
Karen Ortman 08:33
And when you speak of the doula profession, it's always in the context of the manner in which you serve which is end of life doula,
Diane Button 08:42
right. For example, if you were looking it up online, you would need to put death doula or your end of life doula or your local birth. doulas are going to show up, but it's really similar in in profession to a birth doula. It's a you know, guiding birth. doulas guide you into the world and death. doulas guide you out of the world basically.
Karen Ortman 09:01
Okay. Let's talk about your client. Who is your client? Is it the survivor of the person experiencing end of life? Or is it the person experiencing end of life?
Diane Button 09:19
Well, the ideal scenario is that it's everybody involved. So there there is a client who is usually someone who's dying. And that's the normal most common call that we get. There is a person dying and usually they will call or someone will call on their behalf, because they realize that they want to either do a life review or maybe do a legacy project or face some fears have some conversations, and so they want to have somebody with them when they're dying. But when we show up, we find that we're often there for the family and for support system, and we're always available for the family also asked or the death and we stay after a death for quite a while, usually that day as well. So we were really there for the client, but we try to provide a ring of support for everyone.
Karen Ortman 10:11
Okay. Can you take me through an experience of a client that you served professionally as a doula? And what that looked like? How did you get contacted? What were their circumstances? How were you able to offer support not only to the dying person, but to their family members,
Diane Button 10:43
some people call when they're healthy, and some people call the day before they die. So picking just one is difficult, but I will, I will narrow it down. And maybe I'll mix two together, just to give you a little short but clear example. Um, one client called me and she wanted to do some legacy work. And she thought that she had a few months left to live. And it turned out not to be the case, because she declined very quickly. And I was able to only be with her, and her husband and friends for about eight or nine days. But she was able to tell me what mattered most to her, and what her fears were, and what was important to her, we were able to have all of her friends email, her husband letters and notes that he read to her by the bedside every night because she was worried that people didn't know she was dying, and we're gonna forget her. And she wrote a note that was sent out to all the people she loved that felt like a goodbye letter, I was able to go to the house several times and sit with her husband and her friends to talk through the vigil plan and how we were going to show up when she started actively dying, which we could see was coming sooner. And I was able to show up when she was dying, and wait for the mortuary and witness them take her body so that the husband could not have to witness that because he didn't want to. And then I have kept and kept in touch with the husband ever since. But it was just a week. But we were able to address so much and have a very meaningful time.
Karen Ortman 12:23
Can you can you share what some of those conversations were? Oh, yeah.
Diane Button 12:29
So yeah, it's it was a such a beautiful thing, because she had a list of friends and family members that she hadn't been in touch with for a long time, and others that she saw on a regular basis. So as the emails were coming in, you could see her life just played out in this beautiful legacy that was created by these 60 or 80 letters and emails that she got some people shared stories from her childhood, other people shared stories from six months before when she was actively working and making a difference in the world, helping protect people. And so she she just had her legacy and it was emotional. And it was filled with also laughter and beautiful memories. And the husband told me that every night, she would fall asleep to him reading her as many stories as he could get to, before she fell asleep at night. And that it also gave him such comfort in hearing these stories and knowing how loved she was, but it was really reflective of her life.
Karen Ortman 13:37
Is this why it's called a legacy project?
Diane Button 13:40
Well, a legacy project is usually different than that a legacy project that was a legacy Legacy Project, in essence, sort of a let's pull something together that's beautiful, and that her husband can keep to read over and over again. So it did become a legacy project. But I usually think of a legacy project as a more intentional, tangible, well thought out project that relates to a specific client. And it's a way of, of, you know, answering the question, how do you want to be remembered. And so oftentimes, that becomes a legacy project as I get to know the client if they would like to create one.
Karen Ortman 14:21
So this is where a client meets with you, and shares with you. What was meaningful throughout their life, and perhaps maybe they don't even know and you help them discover what had meaning and then it gets documented. And that's something that survivors have once the person passes.
Diane Button 14:43
Yeah, that's a that's a good way of looking at it. Basically, I look at Legacy work as having two parts, like there's the inner work and the outer work. So the inner work is intangible, and you know, it's it's basically comes from the heart and these are all Often, conversations and issues that come up in what we call a life review where we sit with a client, we really go over their life and the meaning that it's had. And stories come up about them. And it kind of starts defining how they're going to be remembered and what kind of legacy they're going to leave. But then when we talk about the person's life, and this imprint that they're going to leave on the world through their their story. That's where the legacy ideas start to kind of percolate. And a lot of times, I'm always listening for ideas and passions, and collections and things that this client might have done, that could be part of their legacy. And so that's the tangible idea that I might come up with that, that we can do, you know, right from our clients home, while they're sick, or while they're dying, that can be something that they can work on and create to leave a lasting memory for their loved ones. And it's really quite beautiful. And it also brings a lot of comfort and peace to the dying, that they're doing something creative and tangible at the end of life.
Karen Ortman 16:06
How do families find you? And how do they know what services you offer?
Diane Button 16:16
Well, we have a website and most doulas do have a website. And again, the Nita alliance that I was telling you about has a list of doulas. So people can find us that way. And we list all the services that we provide. And basically, the list includes offering companionship and respite for the families, like I mentioned, we also provide assistance in writing advanced directives and creating the legacy projects and conducting the life reviews that we just talked about. Then we offer space to have the difficult conversations and we can gather families together as well to talk about, you know, both life and death, and fears and regrets and, you know, often have conversations about unfinished business that might be really bothering someone as they approach the end of life. And then we also offer visual planning, which is really a beautiful way for people to start leaning into the reality that they are dying, perhaps a memorial plan that will let people start having those harder conversations. And then we also are available for unexpected needs and sometimes do things that aren't really part of our exact role, like helping walk or pet or something like that, or we'll find a local local resources and stuff just to be sure that, you know, the clients have whatever services they need to live fully and die as peacefully as possible.
Karen Ortman 17:46
What life changing lessons have you learned, as a end of life doula?
Diane Button 17:54
Well, I've believed I believe that I've really learned what matters most. And I think I've learned what I need to do in my life every day to prepare for death. So I've come to learn that I don't know, I know I'm going to die. But I don't know when I'm going to die. And I don't know how I'm going to die. It's the unknown. It's the uncertainty. So I want to be sure that I've said what needs to be said every single day. And that I've lived in such a way that I really could die at any moment. And I would be okay. So that's like the big picture lesson that I've learned.
Karen Ortman 18:33
I'm curious about clients who may have, you know, sought your services and, and maybe didn't have the happiest life, maybe they were the victim of abuse their entire life, maybe they didn't have a functional relationship with their family members. Maybe they're alone? Yeah. How do you guide these clients? Who asked the question, you know, did my life matter? How do you help them? answer that?
Diane Button 19:13
Yeah, sometimes it is really challenging. And, you know, it makes me think of how we say a good death. But we can't always guarantee that everybody's going to have a good death, we can only do whatever we can to bring as much peace as possible. And the same applies to these kinds of difficult situations. Some, we're not counselors, so sometimes if there's a really difficult challenging situation that we feel that we're not qualified to walk a person through, we will refer people to a counselor and or a grief counselor specifically, if that's something that that needs to be part of the conversation. But in terms of our conversations, you know, when we go through a life review, we are looking at issues Forgiveness and guilt and regret. And we know that forgiveness isn't always appropriate. And we know that a positive attitude isn't always possible. So we do our best to create a ritual around healing, or writing letters of forgiveness, and doing projects that can lead towards a sense of peace. Oftentimes, these, these things come up really late, you know, sometimes someone's been holding something for a very, very long time, like a secret, or a worry, or something that doesn't come out early enough for us to really lean in or reach out, if we can call someone and, and create a conversation around forgiveness or have a healing moment, we will do our best to make that happen if that's what the client wants. But a lot of times those things come up really late, which is why we love to meet a client early on so that we can have a time time to dig into these issues that might come up and have time to really talk them through to see if there is a way that we can create some healing around it.
Karen Ortman 21:07
Yeah. Have you ever had an experience where after the person passed, you felt as though you couldn't assist that client with satisfactory answers to their questions about their life and their purpose and its meaning?
Diane Button 21:35
Well, so I don't look at myself as providing satisfactory answers. Because I really believe that the clients have all the answers themselves. So I don't try to speak for anybody, I try to ask questions that guide and lead people to be able to, you know, discover their own answers. And so I have had times where I've felt that I wasn't as effective as I would have liked to have been in kind of cracking open the egg to get started. Because some people do, I believe, have thicker shells. And so I try my best. But I realized that, you know, I don't look at my clients is broken, I look at them as they're dying. And I'm not there to fix them. I'm there to offer support, and companionship and care and as much healing as I possibly can. I did have a client one time that I write about, in my book, who sat out the window one day, and just told me that he totally missed his entire life. Like he had everything in the world, he had all the money, all the toys, all the cars, all the fancy everything that anyone could ever want. And the biggest driveway I've driven down, and he was just lamenting over the fact that he didn't, he missed his entire life. And he advised me not to do what he did. And it was a great learning experience for me. And we spent days after that, looking for the nuggets of good, and reaching out and writing letters to his sons that were in school were estranged, and even having a conversation with one of his sons. And that, that there's just so much there. But you know, you do your best when somebody feels like they've missed an entire life and lived wrong. It's really hard to like wrap that up in a nice little bow and a few hours, but we just do whatever we can to create as much peace as possible.
Karen Ortman 23:42
What about those instances where the client couldn't achieve that? Is that stressful for you? Where the the the client couldn't come to some conclusion about their misguided path in life, the fact that they didn't have relationships with those who they loved. They like this client you just spoke of who missed his whole life. does that leave you with some sort of residual feelings after having listened to that? And being a compassionate person? And now they're gone? And how do you address that?
Diane Button 24:34
So the way I look at it is, yes, emotions come up. I'm human, and I'm going to have emotions, all different emotions doing this work for sure. But I've learned not to carry the burdens of others. And so I realized that that client story is his story. It's not my story. And so If, if he found closure and peace at the end of life, then that's beautiful. But if he was still grappling with his own personal issues at the end, then I have to be okay with that too. Because it's not my it's not my story, and it's not my life. I'm just there to hold space for him to process his own story.
Karen Ortman 25:22
How long have you been doing this work?
Diane Button 25:24
about 15-16 years?
Karen Ortman 25:28
And in those 15-16 years, how many people did you tend to? During the dying process?
Diane Button 25:41
I would say in the hundreds, yeah. Yeah.
Karen Ortman 25:45
What's your biggest takeaway from watching death happen?
Diane Button 25:52
My biggest takeaway is that we're all going to die. And so it's really about how we live. Like, you know, if you want to die in peace, live in peace. You know, if you want to die, surrounded by love, live surrounded by love. I just, I feel like the dying have taught me so much about life and living that it's really been the greatest privilege of my life. And they've been my greatest teachers. So it's really just about doing everything I can to have the best possible life that I can in terms of being prepared to die at all times.
Karen Ortman 26:32
What did you do before you became an end of life doula?
Diane Button 26:36
Well, I owned a restaurant for 10 years. And then I had kids. And so I was raising my kids and I, I started running a nonprofit, with my kids. And so that was, that's been fun. And we still have it. So we've always, you know, raised money for causes that really feel close to their hearts. And we've been doing that since they were young. So I did that. And then I started working with some neighbors who were dying in my town. And that kind of shifted me and we actually did some fundraising and such around people with terminal illnesses. And that got me into working with hospice and volunteering there, which led me to this. That's
Karen Ortman 27:17
how it started. Yeah, okay. Are your non end of life doula peers, friends, comfortable or uncomfortable hearing you speak about your profession?
Diane Button 27:36
They are getting used to it because they happen to. A lot of people don't like talking about it. A lot of people are very curious. And they do. And, you know, I have this great network of doula friends around the country who we get on Zoom calls, and we just talk about it. Because, you know, we just go there to those hard corners that, you know, a lot of people don't like to talk about, but, but I do appreciate my friends really leaning in, and they want to start doing some of their own end of life planning and advanced directives and such. So that's been really good. Yeah.
Karen Ortman 28:14
I assume that you have your end of life plan established?
Diane Button 28:21
Karen Ortman 28:23
No. Are you afraid to die?
Diane Button 28:27
Well, that's a good question, too. I like to think that I'm not, but I really don't know for sure. You know, because I don't think I'll know until my time comes. And I am honest with myself, about what emotions come up. I mean, I feel like I'm prepared in many ways. But I also have never died before. And so I really don't know. I do know that. Having the opportunity to witness the nearing death, visions and dreams of the dying have been my greatest source of comfort in minimizing my fear of dying. Because when I feel when my clients are reaching out and calling for someone or seeing someone who died before waiting for them on the other side, that is, to me, the most comforting thought there is when it comes to dying. So in that regard, I think I've I've found a way of feeling really peaceful about it. And curious
Karen Ortman 29:32
now. Can you share some of the things that your clients have shared with you or that you have observed when? When one is nearing the end of their life?
Diane Button 29:50
Sure. Well are you talking about physically or emotionally?
Karen Ortman 30:00
whatever is most notable to you, okay?
Diane Button 30:03
Well, a lot of similar things happen physically when a person is dying. So there are signs of the dying that we all come to know. So that's very helpful in our profession to be aware and to learn about the signs of the dying so that we can meet their needs and also anticipate their needs. So, but then also everybody is unique. And so I think that what I've observed is that when a person dies, what's left in the room is love. And it is the people and the relationships that you have built over the course of your lifetime. And those people who matter who might be surrounding you, if you want them there, when you die, that really make a difference. And as a person starts to die, and I don't mean like right away, I mean, like, even months before, they might start to die, people's worlds start closing a bit, you know, where you might have been traveling the world, and then you find yourself just staying in your neighborhood, and then you're just going to the doctors and the grocery store, and then you're not leaving your house, and then you might start being confined to your bedroom or a certain room, and then you might not get out of bed anymore. And so there's this sort of slow progression of decline of our physical ability to go out and be in the world. And the reason I think that's really important, is because as people are kind of closing down, they are also going inward. Yeah. And so that is the work of the dying is to start like shedding the outside world and, and the needs of the external. And they go into this internal space that is very, very deep. And that's oftentimes when some of the most important conversations happen.
Karen Ortman 31:54
Yeah. What do you think happens after death?
Diane Button 32:02
Well, I think that's a really kind of personal, spiritual question that everybody has to answer on their own. For me, personally, I feel like the soul leaves. And when someone dies, the only thing that remains is remaining is like an empty vessel. That was the house of the soul. And so I feel that way spiritually. But I also feel like I see that. And I don't know if that makes sense. But like a little example is, when my husband and I were driving, to see his father, as he was dying, we got a call that he had died. So we didn't make it there in time. And I asked my husband, do you still want to go and see him? And he said, Yes, I think so. But I don't know what to expect. And I told him, Well, you'll you'll see his body, but he won't be there. And my husband told me afterwards, that was the best thing that I could have said to him, because that's exactly what it looked like. He was just a shell. He was body was there, but his essence was gone. And that's what I believe.
Karen Ortman 33:13
Yeah, I believe that as well. And I shared with you in a previous conversation that my father had passed recently. And I would explain it exactly as you as your husband. did. You know, the body was there, but the essence was very much absent.
Diane Button 33:33
Karen Ortman 33:36
What is your most memorable end of life experience?
Diane Button 33:44
Well, there's been so many, and they're so different. But I think one,
Karen Ortman 33:52
you ask this, is there one that changed your life?
Diane Button 33:58
There was a there's they all changed my life, every single one. Yeah, there's just every single one. I mean, it's amazing. But there was a time when a client had called out for somebody like called out a name over and over, I was the only one in the room at the time, but the family was, was around, and then the client died. And I asked, and I always when somebody says something when they're dying, I always write it down. And I write it down exact, because I usually find that it was something really meaningful for the family. And I don't want to get it wrong. So I had these words written down. Exactly. And the client died. And I asked the, the family when they came in, what, what who was this person and what did these words you know, this person and what did the words mean? And it was a huge story from the war of how he had to leave someone who died behind and how he had carried this regret by He never spoke about it except to one person. And so it he was seeing this person and reaching out and so happy to see him and apologizing and saying he was sorry to this person. And I didn't know what was going on, I just knew that he was seeing someone in the room who I didn't see. And so I thought that was just so life changing for me, because it's an example of those stories that I have heard since then, so often that just felt so amazing that this, this spiritual, beautiful transition takes place where the person is actually held in love, you know, from people who they knew from the past?
Karen Ortman 35:43
What do you wish everyone knew about death and dying?
Diane Button 35:51
I wish that everyone knew that we are all born and we're all going to die. And what we do in the middle of it is so important, and that we, when we are fortunate enough to have choices about how we live to remember, you know that, as I said earlier, being being peaceful and deaths starts with being peaceful in life. And a meaningful das starts with living a meaningful life. So you know, if you could live as if it were your last day, every day, and just to remember to always be kind. And I've had so many clients say to me at the end, I'm so glad that I was kind or I wish I was more kind. So I think living a life with a lens towards death. And knowing that our days are limited makes us all be more aware of the present moment.
Karen Ortman 36:52
I like it. Let's talk about your book.
Diane Button 36:56
Karen Ortman 36:57
"Dear death". How did it come to be?
Diane Button 37:01
Well, it's sort of all of my work compiled into one place. When my grandfather died, I was holding him. And he was smiling when he died. And I was new to working with death and dying. And I could not believe the smile on his face, because I'd never seen him smile like that. And he was a plastic surgeon that specializes in working with burn victims. So he had witnessed some unbearable pain and suffering in his life. And he was a very humble man. And he was kind of like my, my hero in life. And so we had this smile. And it struck me that I wished I had asked him more questions, I wished I'd asked him about what matters most to him. And I feel like I missed an opportunity. And so I started researching life and death. And I started working more with the dying. And I went back and got my Master's in Counseling and did a thesis on the components of a meaningful life. And I was all about like, and I still am about what made that big smile happen on his face that I didn't understand. And so it's kind of been a search for understanding that. And dear death, is, you know, the subtitle is finding meaning in life, peace in death, and joy in an ordinary day. And those are the components that I feel like if we could all kind of wrap ourselves around, we would be more prepared at the end of life. So the book is the first four chapters of the book are about finding meaning in life. And the last two chapters are about finding peace and death and doing the work of preparing yourself for the end of life. So it's basically all my life work combined into one book. It's a
Karen Ortman 38:48
wonderful book, and it has a tremendous amount of resources at the end. And very much worth the read. So highly, highly recommended.
Diane Button 39:02
Thank you so much.
Karen Ortman 39:04
Is there anything that we haven't talked about, that you would like to share?
Diane Button 39:10
Yeah, there is one thing, I think that it's been really helpful for me in working with my clients, that I have created these four pillars of a meaningful life as part of the book dear death. And I think sharing those would be helpful just in terms of understanding what really does matter most because we all are living we're living today, and hopefully, we're living tomorrow. So what are those components of a meaningful life? And just for a little background, I develop these four components by interviewing people who are over the age of 75, who are ready to die and they felt like their lives have been meaningful. And so I asked them tell me like what mattered what was important. Tell me the highlights, I think Thank you, thank you, it really was interesting. And I still do it when I meet people on airplanes. I mean, everywhere I go, I'm asking people that I that I'm inspired by, you know, how has your life been meaningful. And so I did what's called for my thesis, a phenomenological study. And what that means is where you take the common threads of every interview, and you find out what the consistent themes are throughout. And so while there were many, I've kind of condensed it down into these four pillars, so I'll just go over them with you really quickly. The first one is about living well, it's kind of a container for living with kindness, gratitude, a positive attitude, when it's appropriate, and forgiving. Also, when you're ready, and just accepting yourself and finding that self love, self worth self acceptance inside yourself to be the best person that you can possibly be. The second one is faith and spirituality. Everyone I interviewed had some belief, and it could be that they're an atheist or an agnostic, but they knew what they believed, and they were comfortable with it. So to me, it doesn't have to be anything even remotely close to what I believe in. But as long as my clients feel that they are at peace with their belief system, then that is a really beautiful thing at the end of life. So whatever you believe, just know that this is your spiritual practice, or this is not and be okay with that, because that will bring you great comfort at the end of life. The other one that people think is most important, is love and relationships. You know, who are your people? Did I say I love you, thank you, I'm sorry. You know, did you did you have the conversations is anything left unsaid, and just fostering those relationships through your life so that you carry good people with you all that all your days, and that those people are with you in the end, either spiritually or physically? And also the last one that I think is actually maybe the one that is talked about the most is charity and contribution. And it's really often comes in the form of a question where people ask, did my life matter? It? Did I make a difference? Is the world a better place? Because I was here. And so that's a question that we can ask ourselves, we don't have to wait till we're on our deathbed to ask ourselves is if the world is a better place, because you were here. So I just encourage everybody to think about those things and live through those four pillars in a way that that is intentional, so that when your time comes to die, you've been living these pillars on a regular basis,
Karen Ortman 43:02
very meaningful work that you do, my friend.
Diane Button 43:05
Thank you so much. Well, thank you, too. Thank you for having me here. And I'll just end by saying it really is doesn't even feel like work. It's such an honor and such a privilege to do this. And thank you too, because you are providing so much information and much needed information out in the world. And like a bit by bit, we all do our part and it does help make the world a better place. So thank you. Well,
Karen Ortman 43:29
you're very welcome. And thank you back. So once again, my friend Diane, thank you for being here with me today. And for, for sharing all of this information on you matter. And thank you to our listeners for joining us for this episode. If any information presented was triggering or disturbing, please feel free to contact the wellness exchange at 212-443-9999 or NY US Department of campus safety and their victim services unit at 212-998-2222. Please share like and subscribe to you matter on Apple podcasts Google Play, tune in or Spotify