We must all die, but many of us live as though we don't know this fact. When death comes close to us or our loved ones, we may feel totally unprepared. The distance from death many of us feel in Australia is a relatively new phenomenon, made possible by prosperity, improved health care, and the development of residential care facilities. Dying used to be accompanied by an agreed set of customs; guides to the art of dying were once very popular. Ars moriendi, a Christian medieval Latin text from 1415, was reprinted in more than a hundred editions across Europe, the first in a Western literary tradition of guides to death and dying. Other traditions had similar guides. But what about those of us living a contemporary, largely secular life? Has the valedictory memoir come to replace ars moriendi, giving us a way to contemplate death?