“I’d been drawn here, I realized, because I needed a tutorial in death. I didn’t need to know about the stages of grief or how to make a living will; I needed to know how to live with death.” –from the Prologue
After her brother died unexpectedly and her mother moved into a dementia care facility, spiritual travel writer and Episcopal deacon Lori Erickson felt called to a new quest: to face death head on, with the eye of a tourist and the heart of a pastor. Blending memoir, spirituality, and travel, Near the Exit: Travels with the Not-So-Grim Reaper examines how cultures confront and have confronted death, from Egypt’s Valley of the Kings and Mayan temples, to a Colorado cremation pyre and Day of the Dead celebrations, to Maori settlements and tourist-destination graveyards.
Erickson reflects on mortality—the ways we avoid it, the ways we cope with it, and the ways life is made more precious by accepting it—in places as far away as New Zealand and as close as the nursing home up the street. Throughout her personal journey and her travels, Erickson helps us to see that one of the most life-affirming things we can do is to invite death along for the ride.
“Open-hearted and soulful, never morbid, and often uplifting, Near the Exit is a colorful travelogue of mortality. I’ve read many books on illness and dying; few have made me smile as often and see the uniquely human richness of the final chapters of life.” —Ira Byock, author of Dying Well and The Best Care Possible and Active Emeritus Professor of Medicine, the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth
“Near the Exit is a delicious, funny, and quite moving read. Part actual travelogue, it’s also a spiritual exploration of death. The writing is stellar; the reflections on the unexpected nature of grief and the way Lori Erickson plumbs ‘seeming coincidence’ grabbed my attention and didn’t let it go. Highly recommend for people of any or no faith practice.”—Jennifer Grant, author of Love You More and Maybe I Can Love My Neighbor Too
“Erickson is our expert tour guide as she takes us on a colorful journey of the world’s sacred death rituals and destinations. Her vivid prose is our companion and invitation to the spiritual packing we needn’t delay until the night before departure.” —J. Dana Trent, author of Dessert First: Preparing for Death While Savoring Life
“Near the Exit is not a typical book on death and dying from a Christian perspective. It is an intriguing exploration of late life and death that will sometimes cause you to squirm or to laugh out loud. Always though, it will prompt you to think deeply about what it is to be mortal. Author Lori Erickson fearlessly weaves ancient perspectives and cultural expressions about death gleaned from her own travel experiences into the intimate stories of her mother’s life in a nursing home in Iowa. Near the Exit will appeal to anyone who struggles to understand the mystery of death and dying.” —Missy Buchanan, advocate, writer, and speaker for older adults
“When I first picked up Near the Exit, I found that, much to my relief, I had not commenced to read another grief book. Instead it’s a travelogue that explores a wide range of sacred sites—from the exotic (and musty) pyramids of Egypt’s Valley of the Kings to the Iowa nursing home where Lori’s elderly mother navigates the labyrinth of dementia—all characterized by a light-hearted and curious inquiry about what death means in various cultural and spiritual contexts. As one who has been hanging out with the Grim Reaper more than I care to lately, I took this book in like a breath of fresh air. I hope Near the Exit will help others navigate mortality as Lori Erickson meets us wherever we are and gently invites us on a guided global tour.” — Kate Sheehan Roach, Director of Content, ContemplativeLife.org
“Is it possible to become comfortable with the thought of one’s own death? Lori Erickson sets out on a fantastic voyage to explore the answer and, best of all, we get to go with her. From the depths of Egypt’s Great Pyramids to the wide-open spiritual expanse that is Crestone, Colorado, Near the Exit shows us it is possible to not only chart the landscape of mortality, but also to make it gloriously our own. A hopeful and inspiring book.” —Sophfronia Scott, author of This Child of Faith: Raising a Spiritual Child in a Secular World