Book review: Last Writes

Last Writes Hardcover Book Cover

Last Writes Hardcover Book CoverPenny’s mother jotted down detailed instructions for her funeral, as well as anecdotes and reflections about her life and those she held dear, in a little book which she wrote during her last years. She rather flippantly used to refer to it as her ‘Death book’.

For Penny Macdonald, it was a precious gift which made it much easier to plan her mother’s funeral. She followed her instructions to the letter. When friends heard about this little book and what it contained, they said that they too would like to embark on a similar journey.

This inspired Penny to ask her friend Rebecca Zwitser, a talented artist and graphic designer, to collaborate with her to create a journal they named Last Writes, in which you will be the author. As it will be your story you can make it as serious or amusing as you wish, and you can add your own touches to best reflect who you are.

Last Writes takes the form of a template and is divided into six sections:

My life and legacy

In here you can record some of the best days of your life, anecdotes about people who have meant a lot to you, books and films you enjoyed, lessons learnt along life’s way, the milestones and the potholes.

Treasured memories, thanks and things

This part is to be shared with those people who have been special in your life, what you loved and respected them for and your favourite memories.


A place to write down some of the more interesting and amusing anecdotes pruned from your family tree which could include a few you have never divulged until now.

The immediate aftermath

This is the section to write down detailed instructions about your funeral and the aftermath. There are spaces to record the name of your funeral insurance company, your doctor, lawyer etc. I thought it a good idea that it includes a list of who to contact in the event of your death. Recently a very dear friend ours died but her children did not have our contact details. We would have loved to be at her send-off.

Nuts and Bolts

It is important to note that Last Writes is not a legal document but what you record here would be very useful for the person/people you have chosen to look after your affairs after you die and could save them a lot of time and trouble searching for necessary information. It includes a list of your investments or anything else of financial importance that your beneficiaries should know about such as your accountant, power company etc as well as your internet service provider.

Notes Quotes and Thoughts

Here is your opportunity to have the last word about things that are important to you, and it could include some of your favourite quotes.

When the pandemic arrived like a bolt out of the blue it was a stark reminder that you never know when the final curtain might fall so it is a good idea to be prepared. I think Last Writes provides a really useful framework in which to record your final wishes, closing reflections and last legacy. And I like the fact that you can fill it in in small bites when you have some spare moments, so it is not an onerous task.

Last Writes by Penny McDonald and Rebecca Zwitser is published by  RRP hardback $39.

Reviews by Lyn Potter

Parent and grandparent, Avid traveler, writer & passionate home cook

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