Recently, on a gloriously sunny, spring-like morning, author Marietta Pritchard, stood in the kitchen of the Hospice of the Fisher Home in Amherst, fixing herself a cup of tea, talking about how she would like to die.
“I’ve become very committed to this place, and what goes on here,” she said, stirring in a dollop of honey. “A nursing home is not a place I would like to be, but this is someplace where I would. Like the title of the book.”
This winter Pritchard, who has been a volunteer at the Fisher Home since 2007, published her second book, “The Way To Go: Portraits of a Residential Hospice” (The Impress Group, 2015) about her experiences at the hospice.
A former editor at the Daily Hampshire Gazette, she once worked as an obituary writer at the newspaper as well and now writes a monthly column for Hampshire Life magazine.
“The Way To Go,” is a series of miniature portraits of several of the patients Pritchard took care of and the various staff members she encountered at the hospice. Woven throughout are excerpts from Pritchard’s journal, which she started when she began volunteering at Fisher Home, and chapters that focus on the history of the place. Each story adds to the mosaic Pritchard paints of this particular residential hospice, which in turn sheds light on the larger hospice movement.
“Hospice seeks to normalize death,” she writes. “But for many people in our culture, death is never seen as normal. It is the unspeakable.”
Pritchard’s book tackles questions most would prefer to avoid: How would we like to die? What do we consider a good death? What does a grieving family need?
The goal, she said, is to provide patients with the best death possible.