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The Wisdom of Dying: Frank Ostaseski at Bookshop Santa Cruz


"Life and death are a package deal. They cannot be pulled apart and we cannot truly live unless we are aware of death."

These are the teachings of Frank Ostaseski, who is no stranger to death. His new book, The Five Invitations: Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully, gleans powerful lessons from his work as a celebrated Buddhist teacher and cofounder of the Zen Hospice Project, where he has served alongside thousands of dying patients.


Frank spoke before a packed room of more than 200 attendees at Bookshop Santa Cruz in July, with a palpable anticipation in the air. When most speakers take the stage, they deliver a speech with a beginning, middle, and end. This was not the case for Frank. The moment he stepped up to the podium, he spoke with presence and wisdom, offering humble, bite-sized personal anecdotes and disparate pearls of wisdom, like individual stones on a strand of prayer beads. One such pearl was a reflection of a child whom Frank had met who seemed to have a deep understanding of life’s meaning. The child held an old leaf that had fallen from a tree. She said that the fallen leaves are very generous. They make room for the new leaves.

The following day, Frank returned as a guest teacher at Hospice of Santa Cruz County, leading two training sessions for our staff and volunteers. It was a welcomed opportunity to reflect on our work serving others at the end of their lives.

Teaching others to live a more wholehearted life as we embrace the wisdom of dying is an ambitious undertaking. We’re proud to partner with Frank and other healthcare leaders. Events like this are important because they foster our awareness of death and dying, helping all of us to contemplate what’s important in our lives today as well as at the end of life.

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