A Night on
Buddy’s Bench

an evocative story about love, grief and finding peace at the end of life

What is our purpose in life?
How can we make meaning out of loss?
Where can we find peace in the face of death?

As the ancient Sufi proverb remarks, “When the heart grieves over what it has lost, the spirit rejoices in what it has left.” The willingness to open our hearts to each other helps us realize the great gift that is life, helps us transcend the pain of those we love.

Peace is Found on Buddy’s Bench

In hope of resolving the unanswerable– Why did my friend die so young? What does it mean that we die? – an Old Man ventures out late at night to Buddy’s bench, drawn by local rumors of its resident kind Spirit. Unsure what he believes or where to begin, he experiences a profound realization that fills his heart with peace.

Anyone who loves or is loved, anyone who has ever lost a loved one, will recognize the Old Man’s yearning for meaning, the gentle wisdom of the Spirit, and the importance of being fully present to Life.

An End of Life Story

A Night on Buddy’s Bench is a picture book designed to help initiate end-of-life conversations that can comfort both the living and the dying.

Every hardcover book purchase includes a CD with a dramatic audio version – also available for purchase separately – for those who prefer to listen or can no longer read, as well as a bonus track of original music inspired by the story.

Hear the audiobook excerpt
See example artwork & text

With its heart-felt words and beautiful watercolors, A Night on Buddy’s Bench is perfect for sharing with family members or friends who are in hospice or dealing with loss, or for contemplative reading.

All profits from A Night on Buddy's Bench are donated to Hospice and other charities that support families experiencing loss. We're currently donating to the National Hospice Foundation.

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Preface

In grief we not only mourn the passing of someone we love, but also revisit our former losses.

death or seem unconscious, we created an audio version.

This version evocatively captures the lush sounds of an ocean island and harbor along with an original music score.

A Night on Buddy’s Bench emerged from our family’s experience with death. Within a period of just a few months, we lost Esther, my highly functional ninety-three-year-old mom; Rose, our adorable three-year-old cousin; and our very vital seventy-eight-year-old Aunt Kay. We were fortunate to be supported by wonderful Hospice caregivers, who helped us begin to let go of fear and learn instead to be present to our loved ones’ end-of-life journeys. A Night on Buddy’s Bench is set on a magical (but quite real) island ten miles off the coast of Maine – a place of haunting winds, brilliant orange-purple sunsets, fairy houses hidden in the moss and ferns of great cathedral woods. There on the edge of the landscape, hunkered down like a monument for lost sailors facing the vast open sea, stands an old cedar bench that my wife and I have visited many times.

I initially wrote to explore my ideas about the purpose of life in
the face of loss. The story flowed easily and soon became a family project. We created this picture book to realize our experience as a touchstone for ourselves, our family, our friends... and now for you. In sincere gratitude, profits from the sale of A Night on Buddy’s Bench will be donated to Hospice and other charities that support families experiencing loss.

We hope that reading, listening to, and sharing A Night on Buddy’s Bench helps you and your loved ones reflect upon and honor the end of life and transition to death as a sacred place and time. When we learned from Hospice friends that the ability to hear and process language often remains even when people are close to

In peace,
Ira Baumgarten

A Night on Buddy’s Bench is set on a magical island .. a place of haunting winds, brilliant orange – purple sunsets, fairy houses hidden in the moss and ferns of great cathedral woods. There on the edge of the landscape, hunkered down like a monument for lost sailors facing the vast open sea, stands an old cedar bench.

The old man realized that he was surrounded by sounds, by many shades of gray and black, by the moving fog, and by his memories.

The unanswered question echoed in his head – why did he die so young? He heard the Voice in the fog: “Why do any of us die when we do?
 All I know is that when there’s loss, we have a chance to feel a shared pain, and that can make our hearts expand.” The old man looked at the sky and the sea. He felt reassured. He thought – how strange – you can feel so alone and yet so connected in the same moment.

He could hear the mast lines off in the distance chiming in unison like church bells afloat. They played the high notes while the harbor buoys below rocked back and forth in harmony, clanging the low notes.

He said “YES” to the boats in the harbor, to dolphins he couldn’t see jumping, to those asleep across the land, to those he loved, to those yearning, to those who care about our planet, to those in pain – and to all those things he thought he would never do but had done. The old man said, “YES”.

The old man felt strange. It wasn’t dark anymore. The sun started to rise out of the sea. Talking to the Voice now seemed crazy. Was it the Voice? Was it his wife talking to him? Or was he getting senile?

The old man felt unsettled. He wanted to know whether he’d done all he was supposed to do. Had his purpose run its course? Should he throw away his to-do list? He pushed himself off the bench, faced the sea and screamed: “You’ve been with me all night. I’m tired. Answer me: “What’s left for me?”

The rising sun made a parade of diamonds on the water. He began to sing a song he wrote as a young man. It was a tune he hadn’t sung in a very long time.
“Oh Sun, I love you so
I made a deal with you no one knows.
If you get up every morning, so will I.
If you get up every morning, so will I.
Oh Sun, I love you so.”

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