Ms. Farley, now 79, is a proponent of natural childbirth and chairwoman of the board of the Maternity Center Association in Manhattan. Being around hospitals a lot, she was disturbed to see how many people died alone, with no one to nurture them through their final days. In 1998, while at a conference dealing with end-of-life issues, Ms. Farley listened to a talk by Dr. Sherwin Nuland, a professor of surgery and an author. He stressed how important it was for sick people to have companionship to help them accept death, and he used the Yiddish word for funeral, "levaya," which means "to accompany."

The New York Times: Final Days: In Death Watch for Stranger, Becoming a Friend to the End.

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