Post Script: We Know How This Ends, Living While Dying – Bruce H. Kramer and Cathy Wurzer

“This isn’t a journey, this is life.”

Book cover We Know How This Will End

We Know How This Ends

Living while Dying

Bruce H. Kramer, Cathy Wurzer

University of Minnesota Press

Univ Of Minnesota Press

ISBN: 9780816697335


D2010 had been a very good year for Bruce H. Kramer. But what began as a floppy foot and leg weakness led to a shattering diagnosis: he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. ALS is a cruel, unrelenting neurodegenerative disease where the body’s muscles slowly weaken, including those used to move, swallow, talk, and ultimately breathe. There is no cure; ALS is a death sentence.


When death is a constant companion, sitting too closely beside you at the dinner table, coloring your thoughts and feelings and words, your outlook on life is utterly transformed. The perspective and insights offered in We Know How This Ends reveal this daily reality and inspire a way forward for anyone who has suffered major loss and for anyone who surely will. Rather than wallowing in sadness and bitterness, anger and denial, Kramer accepted the crushing diagnosis. The educator and musician recognized that if he wanted a meaningful life, embracing his imminent death was his only viable option. His decision was the foundation for profound, personal reflection and growth, even as his body weakened, and inspired Kramer to share and teach the lessons he was learning from ALS about how to live as fully as possible, even in the midst of devastating grief.


At the same time Kramer was diagnosed, broadcast journalist Cathy Wurzer was struggling with her own losses, especially the slow descent of her father into the bewildering world of dementia. Mutual friends put this unlikely pair—journalist and educator—together, and the serendipitous result has been a series of remarkable broadcast conversations, a deep friendship, and now this book.


Written with wisdom, genuine humor, and down-to-earth observations, We Know How This Ends is far more than a memoir. It is a dignified, courageous, and unflinching look at how acceptance of loss and inevitable death can lead us all to a more meaningful and fulfilling life.



My View:

Beautifully written; eloquent and touching yet never ever morbid authors Kramer and Wurzer discuss the unmentionable “the art of dying”: for it is an art, a way of looking at the world, of looking at and reassessing relationships, of seeking meaning in every day and facing the constantly changing challenges of di ease. For Bruce H Kramer it is his new reality, we are all dying just some of us have a better road map than others. Wurzer shares Kramer’s philosophical discussions on all things including his illness; “In each loss we experience, there is change, and in loss there can be growth, even during life’s final transformation, death, where the most profound lessons are taught. Each loss offers a teachable moment…an opportunity to grow until growth is no longer possible, a road map to the ultimate outcome.”


There are profound messages here for the terminally ill, the carers, family and colleagues of the terminal ill and for those who need reminding that life is not a practice run, live it well and live it now. This is a dual story of dementia and ALS and the new friendship between Wurzer and Kramer, one that will know will end shortly.


Beautifully written.

6 thoughts on “Post Script: We Know How This Ends, Living While Dying – Bruce H. Kramer and Cathy Wurzer

  1. So many people are afraid, or feel equipped, to talk about death. And yet, it’s an integral part of our existence. I think open conversations about it can be very helpful, especially for those who are, say caring for an elderly parent, or dealing with a terminal diagnosis of their own. This sounds like a helpful book for opening such a conversation, Carol.

      • It’s not always easy though – when my mother was dying I knew exactly what she wanted because we had talked about it a lot over the years, but my brother always closed any conversation down because he couldn’t bear the thought. And he did exactly the same when my sister was dying. Without wishing to sound in any way sexist, I think it’s a thing women are better at facing than men – maybe that will be different with younger generations though, since men tend to be much more open to expressing emotion than they used to be.

      • It isn’t always easy – but I think maybe easier to start the discussion long before we “know” when the end will likely be…we are all on that track to the end, just some of us have a better map (know when where are getting to the destination), so start a conversation now whilst there is no emotion attached…my family know my wishes…which can change at any time – also a right 🙂 This discussion is not old age related as our documentary makes people aware – our protagonist was only just 30…life happens, or car accidents, or shark attacks….crime…I am not trying to be morbid just saying you never know…start some conversations…

      • Oh, I’ve discussed it with my brother whether he liked it or not! And made him tell me what he wants too.It’s so much easier on the relatives if they know, whenever the time comes, rather than having to guess – or worse, arguing about it.

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