Death Books – It can’t be as morbid as it sounds

My mom died a year ago yesterday. After my dad died I struggled with the tensions and conflict between death and life. After my mom died last year I noticed that my  relationship with death has evolved dramatically since my dad’s death in 1997. I am now able to look at death and see it for what it is, part of the entire circle of breath. Part of the journey. I no longer see death as an end. A void. I no longer fear it. I respect it. I no longer run from it.  I see it as something to sit with and be transformed by.

When my mother passed away last year, I realized I was now the oldest living female in our family. That was when I started thinking of myself as not becoming older but becoming elder. Elder like the old medicine woman or the old wise woman or the woman who is the keeper of the family knowledge, stories, and special potions. I learned that I was at an age that in many traditions, including yogic and Nahuatl for example, is seen as a time of rebirthing with all of the wisdom that one has from the past. And, it seemed to feel right.

As I comtemplated this emerging role for myself, I reflected on all of the knowledge I had acquired from the elder women in my life and family. With a desire to not have it all be forgotten, and a desire to ensure that all will be okay when it is my turn to exit, I commenced upon the creation of our family Death Book. It really is not as morbid as it sounds.

In the early years of married life I had begun making seasonal menus and companion grocery lists for each week. It was a means to survival. Organization in the world of a growing family with young children. The menus streamlined costs, shopping time (the lists were efficient), and reduced the need for the question, “What’s for dinner?”


These seasonal menus and shopping lists became the foundation of our family Death Book. The book contains 7 sections:

VOLUME 1:

  • Family Recipes 

VOLUME 2:

  • DIY Seasonings
  • Sauces & Extracts
  • Beverages
  • Breakfast & Brunch
  • Appetizers
  • Soups & Stews
  • Dinner
  • Slow Cooker
  • Sides
  • Salads 
  • Dressings

VOLUME 3:

  • Breads
  • Bars
  • Muffins
  • Cakes
  • Cookies
  • Muffins
  • Pies
  • Snacks
  • Other Sweets

VOLUME 4:

  • Canning
  • Freezing
  • Fermentation
  • Culinary Gifts
  • Body Care
  • Cleaning
  • Essential Oils
  • Around the House
  • Family Remedies
  • Other


VOLUME 5:

  • Cleaning Plan

VOLUME 6:

  • Holiday Traditions

VOLUME 7:

  • Emergency Preparedness

These recipes and the information provided are all time tested and treasured by our family. They are the ones that I hope my girls will take with them and continue with their families some day. In fact, I have already found them using the book when they are in the making mood and decide to make drop biscuits, cookies, or room sprays. Volume 4 is particularly special to me as it contains the magic – how to make candles, how to can strawberry preserves, how to make deodorant, what to do for a sore throat, and so much more. These are the actions that are easily lost over time. I hope that by compiling all of this into one book my girls can pass forward some of these special aspects of our family. By doing so we will continue to live on. 

Since I embarked on the Death Book I have discovered that others have done similar things. Check out:

Heather Bruggeman – Heather blogs at Beauty that Moves. Her approach was to create individual family binders filled with recipes. As she says on her IG, “if something were to happen to me, they’ll know how to keep this ship sailing. (Though I’m sure they’d find their way just fine without these.)” She can be found on IG at https://www.instagram.com/heather_bruggeman/ 

Melissa Coleman  – Melissa blogs at The Faux Martha and has released a book The Minimalist Kitchen. Her new book grew out of an attempt to organize her kitchen in a manner that works for her. The process she implemented grew into her book containing all of her kitchen ingredients and her families favorite recipes.

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