Dessert First: Preparing for Death While Savoring Life

What if we embraced death as a sweet part of life, rather than a dreaded landmark? How would that shape the way we think about death, dying, and grief … and how we live, now?

In the year she served as a chaplain in a hospital “death ward,” J. Dana Trent accompanied more than 200 people — and their families — on their passage from life to death. Using personal narratives, Dessert First: Preparing for Death While Savoring Life captures life lessons on death and grief learned at the bedsides of the dying, including Dana’s own mother. Dessert First illuminates the end-of-life complexities: why we avoid talking about and planning for it, and how we might instead prepare for a “good death.”

Dessert First is a deeply personal, touching, and sometimes even humorous look at death and dying, including the ways we cope when facing the inevitable end of life. Vignettes examine meaning, while practical resources help the reader begin with the end in mind. Final chapters include religious, spiritual, and legal resources.

This book is a companion on a journey of considering death—our own and our loved ones’—as a sweet spiritual part of life, rather than a dreaded destination. Discover tools for creating meaning-making at the end of life and in grief—for yourself and for those whom you love.

Supplemental Resources

Picture of Dessert First Book Cover

Podcast Interviews

Episode 100 or “We also can’t believe we did this for this long…” Anyway, with our 100th episode, we welcome back a “repeat offender,” the Alec Baldwin to our SNL, author J. Dana Trent.

Kristin and Meredith talk about writing and keeping a journal, and chat with J. Dana Trent, author of Dessert First and other non-fiction books on Christian meditation, Sabbath practice, and interfaith marriage.

Praise for Dessert First

In this disarmingly forthright and often funny book, Dana Trent reminds her readers that we’re all terminal, and we’ll all ride the grief train sooner or later–so why not start the conversation now? Her ability to convey what she has learned as a hospital chaplain, a daughter, and a teacher grounds every page in the real world, making it impossible to resist her invitation to begin thinking about The End in a life-giving way.

Barbara Brown Taylor, author of An Altar in the World

If grief is the language of love, this unflinching book shows us
how to love a little deeper

Kate Bowler, New York Times best-selling author of Everything Happens for a Reason (And Other Lies I’ve Loved)

Dessert First really helped me. It helped me prepare for the
deaths of people I love. It helped me prepare for my own death.
Don’t worry: it isn’t a book written by Miss Morbidity. J. Dana
Trent is funny and professional and human, exactly the kind of
person you want to help you face life’s one actual certainty.

Brian D. McLaren, author/activist

Dessert First is a delicious treat–nourishing and enjoyable.
A timely reminder not to neglect the things that matter most.

Practical, truthful, needed.

Philip Gulley, Quaker author of If the Church Were Christian

There is great freedom in accepting the reality of death. There is even joy. And possibly — a great deal of humor. It is all here in “Dessert First,” a book about death that adds up to the fullness of life implied by the title. Dig in.

Erin Wathen, author of Resist and Persist: Faith and the Fight For Equality and Patheos blog ‘Irreverin’

What is a good death? How does one prepare? Dana Trent’s Dessert First is a complete book. It is filled with practical wisdom gleaned from religious reflection and practical experience as an end-of-life chaplain. She has somehow transformed that experience into a joyful assessment of life and preparation for its end. Trent’s wisdom comes in narrative form, which adds to the accessibility and, dare I say, enjoyment of this thoughtful book. It deserves many readers.

Richard Lischer, Duke Divinity School, author of Stations of the Heart: Parting with a Son

Trent, a Baptist minister, draws from her experiences as a hospital chaplain and grieving daughter to plumb how death “teaches us how to live” in this enlightening memoir and guide to confronting the end of life.

Publishers Weekly

“A valuable primer on a good ending. Of particular benefit are the appendixes, which offer all manner of practical spiritual, legal, and medical guidance both for the dying and for the living.”

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