Virgil Brady can still remember the moment when he realized his own mortality.
The occasion stands out for how unremarkable it was. One day about 25 years ago, Brady was sitting in church.
"It just hit me that, 'Gee, it's going to end,'" he recalled.
As a minister in the Methodist church for nearly four decades, Brady helped many people deal with death. But he never quite faced it himself.
Brady, 74, of Lawrence, recently self-published his fourth book, "Death with Style and Grace," which discusses healthy ways to cope with dying.
Even as a minister, Brady never told his followers what awaited them upon their death. Because he didn't know. Whenever a congregant would ask him, he would pose the question back at them: What do you think happens when you die?
As a pastor, Brady conducted funerals and spent time with people as they lay on their death beds. When he gave sermons about death, he tried to focus on what God could do for people during their lives, rather than the afterlife.
Don't expect traditional, by-the-book Christianity in Brady's writing. On the existence of an afterlife, he said: "It's good enough for me to know I'm going to be with God." Brady has always been a naturally skeptical person, though he didn't let that keep him from becoming a pastor. He says part of the book's mission is to let readers know "it's OK to have doubts and still be a person of faith."
To research his book, he read the available literature on dying at local libraries, but he found that most dealt with philosophy, near-death experiences or grieving over the passing of a loved one. Nothing about overcoming the fear of death.
With his latest book, Brady is, in a sense, just continuing with his lifelong mission.
"I just like helping people," he said, "and if people have anxiety about death, I hope the book with help lessen it a little bit." He says he wants to help readers "prepare for their own mortality in a way that makes life enjoyable and lessens anxiety."
"People prepare for marriage, the birth of a baby," he said, "and I don't think there's any bigger event in life than death."
Working on the book has been a cathartic experience for Brady, who says he has less fear of death than when he started writing it five years ago.
"It helped me to put it on paper," he said.
"Death With Style and Grace" can be purchased at the office at First Methodist Church, 946 Vermont St., or from Amazon or iUniverse.