The Last Taboo Blog

Opening Doors

  • By: Anne Bonaparte
  • Published: October 22, 2020, 1169 days ago

One of the benefits of leading DeathWise is being able to hear people’s stories. This week alone, two friends were wrestling with the deaths of loved ones. Hardly a day goes by without someone asking for advice, recommending a book, movie or article or simply sharing a personal experience. And while each of us feels loss differently, there are some universal themes that connect us in a profound way. That is one of the reasons it is so uplifting to be involved in this mission of changing the conversation about death and dying.

Why we tell stories

Why we tell stories (Photo credit: bgblogging)

I travel a lot for my day job, and I often find myself on long plane fights. Most times, I do not engage with the people sitting next to me as I cherish the time to focus on my own reading, writing, working or sleeping. But on my last cross-country trip, I was drawn to the woman sitting next to me and I struck up a conversation.

Helen Quinn is an Australian-born world-renowned particle physicist who leads a fascinating life. As we talked, inevitably our conversation turned to DeathWise and she was moved to share her own experiences with the deaths of loved ones. Hearing her stories was an honor, an intimate connection that broke up the monotony of a long flight. The next day, I was touched again when Helen sent me a poem she had written on the passing of her stepmother, Elsie. Here is the first verse:

I never knew before, she said,

that it takes energy just to listen.

So we turned off the music that she loved,

so she could rest.

The entire poem is on the DeathWise website. I urge you to go there and read it, and I hope you enjoy this heartfelt piece.

Of course, we all know that poetry, art and even humor can be powerful ways of unlocking this very challenging topic of death. David Rakoff, a humorist and essayist, died a couple of months ago after bravely sharing his battle with cancer, which enabled many of his readers and listeners to engage on this tricky topic. A favorite quote of mine from one of his appearances on the radio show, This American Life, was his answer to the inevitable question, “Why me?”

Rakoff said: “You can’t win all the contests and then lose at one contest and say, ‘Why am I not winning this contest as well?’ It’s random.”

Another humorist, Zach Weiner, of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal Comics, offered a wonderful perspective on the importance of seizing life in a brilliantly conceived set of cartoon panels that begin: “Here is something true: one day you will be dead.”

One of our DeathWise team members found an emotional and thought provoking video tribute by a German couple, Walter Schels and Beate Lakotta, which documented life and death in photographs. The interview captures the impact the project had on Walter and Beate as artists. At one point, Beate said, “I have lost my fear of the dead. And lost my fear of being dead. If you look at last faces, you don’t get the impression that it is awful or shocking to be dead. It is quite peaceful and silent.”

Walter shared, “The most important thing is to be aware: that life has an end, to live your daily life and don’t speculate for anything else but today.”

All wise words… many creative approaches.

Enhanced by Zemanta