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

He was just doing dumb stuff with friends, as we do.

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.

More

Mom and blogger Mary Katherine Backstrom regularly shares snippets of life with her two children on her Facebook page. One particularly touching interaction with her daughter is melting hearts and blowing minds due to the three-year-old's wise words about forgiveness.

Even adults struggle with the concept of forgiveness. Entire books have been written about how and why to forgive those who have wronged us, but many still have a hard time getting it. Who would guess that a preschooler could encapsulate what forgiveness means in a handful of innocent words?

Keep Reading Show less
Family

California has a housing crisis. Rent is so astronomical, one San Francisco company is offering bunk bedsfor $1,200 a month; Google even pledged$1 billion to help tackle the issue in the Bay Area. But the person who might fix it for good? Kanye West.

The music mogul first announced his plan to build low-income housing on Twitter late last year.

"We're starting a Yeezy architecture arm called Yeezy home. We're looking for architects and industrial designers who want to make the world better," West tweeted.

Keep Reading Show less
Cities

The U.S. women's soccer team won the Women's World Cup, but the victory is marred by the fact that the team is currently fighting for equal pay. In soccer, the game is won by scoring points, but the fight for equal pay isn't as clearly winnable and the playing field isn't as even.

We live in a world where winning the World Cup is easier than winning equal pay, but co-captain Megan Rapinoe says there's one easy way fans can support the team: Go see games.

Some people argue the men's team deserves to get paid more because they are more successful and earn more money for the United States Soccer Federation. Pay depends on merchandise and ticket sales, and in general, men's sporting events tend to draw a bigger crowd than women's sporting events. It's not about sex, many argue; it's about the fact that people just prefer to see men play.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture

You think you know someone pretty well when you spend years with them, but, as we've seen time and again, that's not always the case. And though many relationships don't get to a point where the producers of "Who the (Bleep) Did I Marry?" start calling every day just to chat, the reality is that sometimes partners will reveal shocking things even after you thought you'd been all shocked out.

That's the case for one woman whose Reddit thread has recently gone viral. The 25-year-old, who's been with her boyfriend for five years, took to a forum for relationship advice to ask if it was normal that her seemingly cool and loving boyfriend recently revealed women shouldn't have a fundamental right. (And no, it's not abortion — although there are a lot of "otherwise best ever boyfriends" out there who want to deny women the rights to bodily autonomy, too.)

Keep Reading Show less
Recommended