I came across The Five Invitations (Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully) by Frank Ostaseski whilst listening to an interview with the author and Sam Harris (The Lessons of Death Waking Up Podcast #104)
After listening to that podcast, I had to buy the book. It’s a great read, I’ve also listened to the book on Audible. I was recommended other books on grief but this one stood out for me.
The book includes stories about people living their final days in a Zen Hospice in California. Some are poignant and will move you to tears but their stories taught me so much about the different ways people die, some die with regrets, some at peace, some angry but the thread throughout this book is that we have a choice especially if we pay attention when we’re alive and well.
The essence of this book is encapsulated in this sentence. Live life with death on your shoulders and you’ll have a more fulfilled life.
One of my favourite stories in the book is about a nature-loving couple called Samantha and her terminally ill husband Jeff. Frank supports Samantha by getting her to see her husband through the 4 elements of nature, earth, water, fire and water. It’s one of the most beautiful passages I’ve ever read.
Here are the 5 invitations described in this book.
1. Don’t Wait
2. Welcome Everything, Push Away Nothing
3. Bring Your Whole Self To The Experience
4. Find a Place to Rest in the Middle of Things
5. Cultivate Don’t Know Mind
In the final pages of the book, Frank describes the Japanese practice of writing a simple poem just before you die and this is one of my favourites written in 1838 by Moriya Sen’an.
Bury me when I die
beneath a wine barrel
in a tavern.
the cask will leak
All the poems are brilliant and worth reading.
I feel inspired to write my own death poem. I have to admit, I’ve not done this yet but hopefully I will one day soon.
Live with death on your shoulder and you’ll have a more fulfilled life
Give it a Try
Get this book, it might make you cry but you’ll learn so much from it.