Lasting Words

A Guide to Finding Meaning Toward the Close of Life

By Claire B. Willis, LICSW
Foreword by Joan Halifax
Photographs by Marnie Crawford Samuelson

Faced with the ultimate challenge of life—confronting your death—how would you want to be remembered? Are there stories you want to tell? Experiences you want to relay? Explanations about how you felt and why? Maybe you wish to ensure that future generations know your family lore. Perhaps you seek meaning and purpose and don’t know how to access them. It’s likely that you seek comfort and strength. But at the same time a deep desire to heal unresolved issues may unsettle you. And reaching for a spiritual connection may be the path you want to find.

There is a way to do all these things, as overwhelming as they may seem. The answer is Lasting Words: A Guide to Finding Meaning Toward the Close of Life by Claire B. Willis. Her experience as a clinical social worker, an ordained lay Buddhist chaplain and a licensed yoga teacher led to the creation of this indispensable book. Each chapter is based on commonly identified end-of-life concerns from research, coupled with her own experience, over two decades, of leading writing groups for profoundly ill people.

Unlike other “writing journals,” Lasting Words takes into account the physical limitations of the writer. One short chapter focuses solely on relaxation and meditation and sets the stage for the writing to be more easeful, openhearted and meaningful.

From there, the author leads the way from Journey to Gratitude, Hope, Forgiveness, Wisdom, Prayer and, finally, Endings. Each chapter includes, with encouraging suggestions, an invitation to reflect and write. Also included are poems and quotations that pertain to the chapter subject, as well as relaxation exercises, questions to ask oneself and closing meditations. And the reflective photographs throughout are as soothing as they are healing.

But most powerful are the stories of people who wrote their own lasting words. You’ll meet Christina, who thought that her lack of travel made her uninteresting. Her writing took her to places she never expected to go. There is James, the young father who discovered that being hopeless just didn’t suit him. And you’ll read about Joan, a lifelong grudge-holder who realized that there are more important things to hold onto, as well as let go of, at the end of a life.

For every person who wondered how to express who they are, and the people who strive to help them, Lasting Words is a precious gift. Therapists and clergy, family and friends and caregivers of every kind will find it essential. And for every person who wishes to leave a unique legacy, the means to do so are at their fingertips.

With astute understanding of the needs of the soul, Claire Willis brings solace to those who want to give a permanent gift and the loved ones who will receive it. 



Author photo © 2013 Marnie Crawford Samuelson

Author photo © 2013 Marnie Crawford Samuelson

Claire B. Willis is a clinical social worker, an ordained lay Buddhist chaplain and a yoga teacher. In her private practice, she has spent over two decades working with oncology patients and with end-of-life issues. A co-founder of Facing Cancer Together: A Community of Hope, Claire is also an adjunct faculty member at the Andover Newton Theological School and a former group facilitator and instructor at The Wellness Community. She earned an M.A. from Episcopal Divinity School and a MSW and a M.Ed from Boston University. Claire lives in Brookline, Massachusetts.


Photo © 2013 Rowena Otremba

Photo © 2013 Rowena Otremba

Marnie Crawford Samuelson is a documentary photographer and a radio and multimedia producer. Her photographs are featured in The Wild Braid, a collaboration with poets Stanley Kunitz and Genine Lentine. She directs and photographs short films. Her website is




“Claire Willis has written a psychologically wise and spiritually evocative guide for patients coming to the end of their lives . . . she lays out a path for people to find peace, connection, and meaning in this difficult period of life.”
—Susan Block, M.D., Chair, Department of Psychosocial Oncology and Palliative  Care Dana Farber; Professor of Psychiatry and Medicine, Harvard Medical School  and Co-Director of the Harvard Medical School Center for Palliative Care

“Lasting Words is a gift to all people facing the end of life, their loved ones and those that care for them. Whether dying, or accompanying those who are dying, this book is a simple, practical guide to a very profound journey. I strongly recommend this for patients, families, and professional caregivers.”
— Christina Puchalski, M.D. M.S., Director and professor, George Washington Institute for Spirituality and Health; Professor of Medicine and Health Sciences at George Washington University; Author of Time for Listening and Caring and Making Healthcare Whole

“What a treasure this simple and profound book is to those nearing the end of their life as well as to pastors, rabbis, chaplains and others who accompany them in the process!”
— Brita Gil Austern, Philip Guiles Professor of Psychology and Pastoral Theology, Andover Newton Theological School, Newton, MA

“Lasting Words offers us a delicately crafted guide, providing strong, secure scaffolding for the journey of living while dying, dying while living.”
— Reverend Julia Dunbar, M.Div, Director of Pastoral Care and Education, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, MA


Pub date: March 20, 2014  |  $24.95 for print and $12.99 for e-Book
Paperback |  140 pages  |  7.5 x 9.25 with color photos  |
978-0-9899838-0-8 eBook   |   978-0-9899838-1-5 paperback

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