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The true story of one woman’s choice to find joy in dying and her unforgettable discoveries along the way.

DEATH BY JOY: An Escorted Journey explores dying from a perspective wildly at odds with Western society’s grim take on the subject. Today, grief and dying are so tightly twisted together that it seems unthinkable to use the words joy and death in the same sentence. Just how ingrained is grief? Here is a brief passage from the book:

“As I write this there are hundreds of therapists in the closest major Canadian city who offer counselling for grief related to death, to help those who are dying or those with a family member, friend, or even pet who is dying or has died. There are thousands of publications on the subject of death and grief (13,868 under Amazon’s online book category Death & Grief); there are millions of web references (83 million for the words ‘death grief’ on one search engine). Death and grief seem inseparable.”

How is it then that Mary, confronted with a damning diagnosis, could not only choose a joyful path to death, but stride with such carefree steps along it? That is the subject of the documentary film I recorded and produced.

“This is an astonishing film which I think will set a precedent for the future on how to perceive and appreciate death.”

– Dr. A-M. Ghadirian, professor emeritus at McGill University Faculty of Medicine, noted author, and psychiatrist

And now in book form, I expand on Mary’s momentous journey, allowing for deeper insights into her joyful passage: to be read, pondered, reread, and digested as time and emotions permit. Set against an end-of-life scene driven by entrenched medical and commercial interests, DEATH BY JOY clearly illustrates an inspiring alternative—one in which family, friends, and palliative care providers share a joyful exploration of life’s closing chapter.

Here is an opportunity to witness, as Holly Pruett, Life-Cycle CelebrantTM, wrote, “the possibility of death as we so rarely experience it today: death that is not feared but embraced for the deep healing, wild creativity, and engaged community it invites.”

Reflections on DEATH BY JOY


The following quotes are from those who have watched the documentary film.

DEATH BY JOY is a deeply moving film about family, love, courage, friendship and definitely joy. It’s not about death, it’s about real life and being there for those we love as we escort them to the threshold and beyond.”

– Diane Goble, After-Death Experiencer and author of How to Die Consciously

DEATH BY JOY is an exceptional film. It certainly made me see dying in a different light—both as a person observing others dying and someday facing my own demise.”

– Paula Wild, Author

DEATH BY JOY carries an important message for abuse and trauma survivors: ‘You too can heal.’ This is never said, but it is shown by the genuine happiness visible in Mary’s face as she meets the challenge of leave-taking with good humour, tranquillity and grace, surrounded by family and friends—who are not only there to keep Mary company, but also to bathe in the inspiring joy she emanates.”

– Eve Abrams, Registered Clinical Counsellor

“Mary’s story was inspiring. I wish it could be seen by everyone, including and perhaps especially by young people.”

– Jan FL Janzen, Hospice Provider

“As a retired officer with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police—one who has seen lots of death—and now a Hospice volunteer, I found DEATH BY JOY to be a true look at the whole process of dying. It portrays the process but more importantly the personal challenges that are involved by both the dying and the ones left behind. This should be in every Hospice training material across the world as it puts a face on death that is inviting and soothing.”

– Dale Martel, Hospice Volunteer

I often speak and present Mary’s story at conferences.
The following are a few participants’ comments.

“Several of us attended your session at the Palliative Care Conference. We were amazed, sad, empathetic, joyful and privileged to be at your presentation.”

“What a wonderful portrayal of a wonderful life.”

“Mary had such a positive attitude and a zest for life. She left this world with acceptance, peace, and love. I am humbled.”

“I loved her daughters, their honesty, love, and admiration for their Mom. What a tribute.”

“After watching the film I now feel that dying does not need to be an unhappy journey.”

“A powerful experience– haunting, difficult to watch at times, but ultimately rewarding and healing.”

“A remarkable first-person account of going through the journey.”

Sample Chapter


Mary Zografov

There are more than thirty chapters in the book, so choosing the sample was a challenge. I decided on one that gives a glimpse of the modest, kind-hearted, generous, and slightly eccentric protagonist, Mary, to provide a hint of what you can expect.

Shedding light on Mary’s character are Sam Lutfiyya, her employer; Kristen Blodgette, a New York City Broadway musical director; and Pamela, a Winnipeg street prostitute. Enjoy!

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Chapter 11 – Work

Sam Lutfiyya was a big man in girth, in heart, and in the music industry. He was soft-spoken, preferring to operate away from the glare. Yet, like the professional percussionist he was, Sam set the tempo for Music Services International, one of North America’s largest music contracting companies. From its modest office in Winnipeg, MSI assembled orchestras for theatrical productions in North America and abroad. Major productions —The Phantom of the Opera, Ragtime, Cats, Fiddler on the Roof  — were outfitted with just the right mixture of musical talent by Sam and his team. One of those team members was Mary.

She was the secretary/receptionist. Nominally. Actually, according to Sam, she wasn’t very good at it. But that didn’t matter to him for Mary’s brilliance lay in befriending everyone, striking a spark in them all. In an industry where timelines reign and egocentrics rankle, Mary’s talents were a treasure.

DEATH BY JOY - Trailer

The trailer for the film DEATH BY JOY: An Escorted Journey will give you a clear sense of the setting, and a taste of the joyful path along which Mary, the protagonist, strode with such carefree steps. Enjoy!