A horrible accident when he was goofing off made him think deeply about what people need when dying.

He was just goofing off with friends as a young adult.

BJ Miller was a young adult hanging with his crew. They decided one night to climb onto the top of a parked commuter train — just one of the dumb things people do when they're bored and looking for adventure. When he reached the top, an "electrical current entered through his hand and blew out through his feet." It resulted in him losing the lower parts of his legs, as well as one of his hands.

How a snowball changed his entire perspective


After that, he spent a few months in a hospital burn unit, where he received great care at every turn. He tells the story of how one night it was snowing, and he had no windows. He could hear the nurses discussing their treacherous drives in the bad weather, and he could only imagine the snow from where he was situated. The next day, one of his nurses smuggled in a snowball and brought it to him.

He just held it in his hand, marveling at the sharp cold against his hot skin, watching it melt, and feeling connected to the world around him in a way he hadn't while pent up inside the hospital.

“In that moment, just being any part of this planet in this universe mattered more to me than whether I lived or died. That little snowball packed all the inspiration I needed to both try to live and be okay if I did not." — BJ Miller

Something isn't right if patients are ready to die for the wrong reasons.

Flash forward a couple of decades. BJ is now a physician — due in large part to what he went through. He recounts many patients he's worked with who were ready to go, ready to die, but not because they'd made peace with the circle of life and the impending next step in it.

They were ready to die because they hated how ugly their lives had become as patients.

At a time when a person is struggling with the biggest hurdle of their lives — leaving their lives behind and not existing corporeally anymore — they are often completely cut off from the humanity and experience of life they so desperately are wishing to exercise while they fleetingly still can.

He makes the case that with some real attention to the design of palliative care and hospitals, we can totally transform what the process of dying becomes for people. Instead of a gruesome, clinical, scary process, it can be, by design, a concentrated crescendo of all the things it means to be living, packed into those final months and days.

Think about it: At a time when a person is struggling with the biggest hurdle of their lives — leaving their lives behind and not existing corporeally anymore — they are often completely cut off from the humanity and experience of life they so desperately are wishing to exercise while they fleetingly still can.

Like feeling their dog lying at the foot of their bed with a cold nose against them. The feelings and quick snapshots in time that, strung together, make up a life.

BJ calls this "sensuous aesthetic gratification," putting words to those moments where we're tactilely rewarded just for being alive.

He makes a moving case for why the entire process of dying should be comprised of more moments of pure living.

If you've ever stood witness to a loved one in their final days, you can probably understand how true this is and how important it is to get people to rethink our systems for the dying.

After all, it will be our turn one day. And we'll want the best experience we can possibly have.

Photo courtesy of Justin Sather
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While most 10-year-olds are playing Minecraft, riding bikes, or watching YouTube videos, Justin Sather is intent on saving the planet. And it all started with a frog blanket when he was a baby.

"He carried it everywhere," Justin's mom tells us. "He had frog everything, even a frog-themed birthday party."

In kindergarten, Justin learned that frogs are an indicator species – animals, plants, or microorganisms used to monitor drastic changes in our environment. With nearly one-third of frog species on the verge of extinction due to pollution, pesticides, contaminated water, and habitat destruction, Justin realized that his little amphibian friends had something important to say.

"The frogs are telling us the planet needs our help," says Justin.

While it was his love of frogs that led him to understand how important the species are to our ecosystem, it wasn't until he read the children's book What Do You Do With An Idea by Kobi Yamada that Justin-the-activist was born.

Inspired by the book and with his mother's help, he set out on a mission to raise funds for frog habitats by selling toy frogs in his Los Angeles neighborhood. But it was his frog art which incorporated scientific facts that caught people's attention. Justin's message spread from neighbor to neighbor and through social media; so much so that he was able to raise $2,000 for the non-profit Save The Frogs.

And while many kids might have their 8th birthday party at a laser tag center or a waterslide park, Justin invited his friends to the Ballona wetlands ecological preserve to pick invasive weeds and discuss the harms of plastic pollution.

Justin's determination to save the frogs and help the planet got a massive boost when he met legendary conservationist Dr. Jane Goodall.

Photo courtesy of Justin Sather

At one of her Roots and Shoots youth initiative events, Dr. Goodall was so impressed with Justin's enthusiasm for helping frogs, she challenged the young activist to take it one step further and focus on plastic pollution as well. Justin accepted her challenge and soon after was featured in an issue of Bravery Magazine dedicated to Jane Goodall.

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This article originally appeared on 06.16.15


A lot of parents are tired of being told how technology is screwing up their kids.

Moms and dads of the digital age are well aware of the growing competition for their children's attention, and they're bombarded at each turn of the page or click of the mouse with both cutting-edge ideas and newfound worries for raising great kids.

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