The Last Taboo Blog

We’re Born, We Die and In Between, We Must Truly Live

By Anne Bonaparte: June 20, 2020

The Dalai Lama says, “One must meditate on death in order to truly live.” I am not completely sure I understand what he means, but I was reminded of this quote after reading about three unrelated deaths in the last few weeks.

Huguette Clark, an heiress with an estimated $500 million copper mining fortune, died at the age of 104. As might be expected, there are a number of interested parties gearing up to fight for her fortune. She was an extremely reclusive person, having spent the last 48 years of her life without ever leaving her New York apartment, during which the management of her financial and legal affairs was suspect. I can’t help but wonder what happened in Huguette’s life for her to have chosen not to engage with her family, friends, causes, interests or passions in the world around her.

Tim Hetherington’s death stands in sharp contrast. Though he lived only 40 years (unbelievably, eight years less than Huguette’s self-imposed confinement), Tim’s approach to life was a complete counterpoint. A celebrated photojournalist and co-director of the Oscar-nominated documentary, “Restrepo,” Tim was killed in an explosion in Libya after having spent the majority of his adult life connecting to the world in some of the world’s most dangerous war zones. As Sebastian Junger, Tim’s partner in “Restrepo,” said at Tim’s memorial, “He went to those places with an open heart and he allowed those places to change him.”

Against this backdrop, I just finished reading Joan Didion’s book, The Year of Magical Thinking, which she wrote in the year immediately following the unexpected death of her husband and fellow author, John Gregory Dunne, in 2003. Her exploration of grief is profound. But it was her description of a trip to Paris she and John took right before he died that hit me the hardest. John was especially excited because, as Joan wrote, “We were doing something we did not ordinarily do. We were doing something we wanted to do… He said ‘wanting’. He meant living.”

She continued,” Life changes fast… Life changes in the instant… You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.”

Do we need a death of a loved one or a friend to sharpen that life focus for us? Or instead, can we take the concept of meditation on death and explore all the choices, on every level, that life offers?

That would, indeed, be magical thinking.

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A Girls’ Weekend

By Anne Bonaparte: May 25, 2020

I just returned from a “Girls’ Weekend” at the beach. What a joy.

For the past 20 years, six girlfriends from grade school have gathered annually to take a two-day break from our lives and just hang out. Usually the weekend is full of well thought through meals and activities that we enjoy –hiking, tennis, art projects and most important, conversation among old friends.

This past weekend was no different although interestingly, much of our talk centered on life choices and death – and not just because DeathWise® had launched since the last time this group was together.

Susie’s* dad, who is aging rapidly, is afraid of death and won’t talk about it. She wonders how she should broach the topic, respectfully. Even though he has always been “Super Dad,” somehow on this topic, she is braver than he is.

How do you deal with one parent who seems (surprisingly) to be outliving the other when that was not the “script” everyone had imagined over the last 10 years? What do you do now?

Watching the movie, 127 Hours, also sparked a lively discussion about death or more specifically, to what lengths people will go to live. The movie is about a mountain climber whose arm becomes trapped between a canyon wall and a boulder after a fall. To survive, he eventually cuts off his own arm. Would we be able to do what he had done? How did he have the strength of mind and spirit to so carefully consider and make such a decision? Would we be strong enough to cut off a limb to escape? Or would we just linger and hope for rescue until it was too late and we died?

Talking about parents and end of life issues and debating questions provoked by the movie led us to the topic of own lives and health and specifically what each of us is doing to stay healthy and vibrant. We thought out loud about future Girls’ Weekends: What would it be like if some of us could make only if we had caregivers? Would it be ok if we brought the caregivers along? How would that change the dynamic?

How are we going to handle our own end of life decisions and how can we support each other? And why is this death topic so darn hard?

By the end of the weekend, we had more questions than answers. But even broaching the topic with my friends, who have known me close to 50 years, was comforting. Having the conversation and not avoiding the “elephant in the room” felt good.

Desmond Tutu once said, “The truth of who we are, is that we are because we belong.”

That rings true for me. We are our brothers’ (and sisters’) keepers. And that is a good thing.

*To protect the privacy of my 4th grade friend, Susie is not her real name.

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Cheating Death Can Change Your Life

By Anne Bonaparte: May 16, 2020

We hear stories all the time about people who have had a close brush with death that radically changed their lives – often for the better. Not everyone finds almost dying transforming, but for many it seems to result in greater respect for balance in life and for living in the now as opposed to living for the future. For some, it lessens the fear of death. For others, it leads to a higher sense of purpose.

While there is a growing body of research on near death experiences (NDEs), there is no way to know how many people have had a close brush with death and survived – having an NDE or not. And they are not the same.

NDE is a term used to describe the collection of personal experiences associated with impending death – including such things as out-of-body experiences and the sensation of being drawn to a bright light. The late actress Elizabeth Taylor is one of about 15 million Americans who claim to have had a NDE, in her case while on the operating table during a surgery.

But there are countless people who have, more simply, almost died.

George Washington’s mother hosted a dinner party while pregnant with the future first President of the United States during which a bolt of lightening traveled down the chimney of her home and struck a young girl sitting next to her. The girl was killed instantly. Historians report that she never really got over the incident, and grew increasingly fearful throughout her life.

While a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, John F. Kennedy’s PT boat was rammed and cut in half by an Imperial-Class Japanese destroyer in the South Pacific. Kennedy and 10 of the 13 crewmen on board survived the initial impact — although Kennedy is reported to have thought, “This is how it feels to be killed” — but had to swim three miles to the nearest land. Kennedy famously did so while carrying one of the injured crewmen by his jacket, which Kennedy clenched in his teeth.

Filmmaker George Lucas was so seriously injured in an automobile accident three days shy of his graduation from high school that he hovered between life and death for three days. Apparently somewhat of a ne’er-do well prior to the crash, Lucas has been quoted, “You can’t have that kind of experience and not feel that there must be a reason why you’re here. I realized I should be spending my time trying to figure out what that reason is and trying to fulfill it.”

And how about the 155 survivors of U.S. Airways Flight 1549 that went down in the Hudson River in 2009? Most of them weren’t famous or people we’d normally even hear about. But one of them, Ric Elias, gave a riveting talk at a recent conference called “3 Things I Learned While My Plane Crashed.” It’s not that Elias’ remarks are so profound. It’s just how often do we get to hear someone describe what he thought were his last thoughts in the minutes before the plane he was on crashed?

Apple CEO Steve Jobs is someone else who has had a close brush with death – perhaps several. In 2004 he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. In 2009 he took a six-month medical leave of absence from Apple and it was later learned, had a liver transplant. Now, Jobs is on another medical leave from the company, although no details have been released.

In 2005, between his treatment for pancreatic cancer and his liver transplant, Jobs gave the commencement speech at Stanford University. He said many things worth thinking about, but these words stay with me most of all.

“No one wants to die,” said Jobs. “Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent.

“Your time is limited,” Jobs continued, “so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

Words to live by, from one person who has cheated death.

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Understanding Cultural Differences Around Death

By Anne Bonaparte: May 12, 2020

Cultural differences have always interested me, and the subject of death illuminates many interesting ones. The custom of visiting a cemetery – a public display of mourning, appreciation, adoration – whatever it means to you – is one remarkable example. In my circle of family of friends, we seem to visit cemeteries on the anniversary of our loved one’s death, birthday or some other commemorative date. But this practice used to be much more a part of daily life, decades ago. Cemeteries were used for recreational purposes, as parks, places to enjoy nature, places to ramble, walk, and reflect.

Then there is the question of what we do at cemeteries. That’s both cultural and personal. Some people bring flowers, some lay stones, some even keep flowers growing on their ancestors’ gravesite. Once I observed a family having a picnic lunch at the gravesite of a deceased family member.

There are some cultures, though, where the idea of a cemetery doesn’t have the meaning it has in ours.

In India, for example, cremation is more typical, as Hindus consider it the most spiritually advantageous practice, and it is usually performed on the banks of sacred rivers, like the Ganges. In the same country, Muslims tend to bury rather than cremate. Customs vary everywhere, and it’s not just preference that informs them; it’s history, tradition, culture, superstition, and sacred text.

The reality of America is that our country is a melting pot and our cultural differences come into play every day. Death is a unique feature of our melting-pot society; it is one of the most universal experiences and it gives us all a commonality. But it isn’t surprising that we each have our individual ideas about what it means to us and how we want to conceptualize our own death, and our own resting place.

I have posted before about practical considerations – eco-caskets, cremation conversations – but there are so many historical and cultural traditions to consider that sometimes they slip through the ancestral cracks of time.

Some of my own roots go back to Italy. I wondered, is there some specific Italian or, more likely, local custom performed or observed for a death? In Italy cultural norms dictate a dignified and communal response. In the village tradition funerals are open to the entire community and sometimes advertised through posters or listings in town squares. Funerals and mourning proceedings are something families spend a significant amount of money on, and the procession tends to end more frequently in a mausoleum than a cemetery. Death in Italy is not taboo; it is dealt with a sense of practicality, inevitability, and comprehension.

Thinking about death has given me the opportunity to explore even more ways to connect to a distant heritage I rarely contemplate. Inherited cultural traditions are a part of even the most basic bereavement periods you may have witnessed or experienced.

Sometimes we assume that people in other cultures treat death and dying like we do — sometimes we might even think that they should. Personally, I think it is better that we understand different cultural sensitivities so we can better reach out to those in need at such a difficult time.

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Without Death, Would We Appreciate Life?

By Anne Bonaparte: May 4, 2020

As I seek to understand more about how we think about death I often come across the words of Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, a psychiatrist whose groundbreaking work in the 1970s gave us a template for mourning that we now refer to as the Five Stages of Grief.

I am intrigued by how Kübler-Ross talked about death; she always illuminated for me that reflecting on death brings forth an appreciation of life. She found death to be an inspiring and creative force because it compels us to carpe diem and value our time and relationships. “If not for death,” she wrote,” would we appreciate life? If not for hate, would we know the ultimate goal is love?”

To me, one of the unintended consequences of avoiding the subject of death is undervaluing our lives. By dodging the subject we run the risk of denying ourselves the face-time with reality that just might push us to lead more meaningful, prolific, enjoyable lives.

For that reason, the idea of a “bucket list” interests me. If you saw the movie with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, you know what I mean.

In the movie the Nicholson and Freeman characters, both of whom have been diagnosed with terminal illnesses, go on a last journey to see and do everything they have ever wanted (think: Egyptian pyramids, skydiving, the Taj Mahal). When I think about it, there are so many things I hope to do before I “kick the bucket,” as they say.

But of course, the kicker is that we are all going to die someday… we are all “terminal…” and it shouldn’t take an illness for to push us to pursue our dreams, reconnect with estranged family or old friends, and live the adventures we have put off.

What’s on your bucket list?

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The Gift of Life

By Anne Bonaparte: May 2, 2020

April was National Donate Life Month – acknowledging and celebrating the generosity of those who have saved lives by becoming organ, tissue, marrow and blood donors, and encouraging more Americans to register to do the same. I’m a little late in posting this, but it is such an important topic that I am doing it now anyway.

A recent survey by the Donate Life America organization reports that a majority of U.S. adults wish to be organ or tissue donors, but not all have registered to do so. And virtually all adults (89%) want their donation wishes honored regardless of family preferences. Taking the time to register so that wishes are followed is critical. With more than 110,000 people waiting on the transplant list, the need is significant.

I never would have known that April is National Donate Life Month if not for DeathWise. We founded DeathWise® to change the conversation about death and dying. We offer information and resources to help individuals and families talk about choices and make plans – a perfect example is organ donation.

I hope you have visited DeathWise® and checked out our state-by-state resources, including organ donor requirements in all 50 states and Washington DC.

Organ donation is one of those topics that can be a powerful positive. Each one of us has the potential to provide ongoing life to a number of people when we die by offering the gift of life. This is a very personal choice – and an important one to make and document.

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Kiss Me Goodnight

By Anne Bonaparte: April 22, 2020

I recently came across a book called Kiss Me Goodnight, a compilation of stories and poems written by girls who lost their mothers at a young age – everywhere from 3 years old to their mid-20s. It’s a wonderfully touching and – as the mother of three daughters – a teary collection. At the very least, it reminded me of the power of mothers and the devastation of their absence.

On a deeper level, it made me think: What is the impact of death on someone who is too young to understand or communicate his or her feelings about it? Young boys and girls who lose one or two parents are more common than we think. It’s something we don’t want to think about it because it seems like one of the worst experiences we can imagine. But it happens. How do these children deal with it? How do they conceptualize the loss of a parent? How do they mourn?

It turns out that for most of the girls in this book, it wasn’t until years later that they actually understood what had happened and started to deal with the grief. That can be true for all of us, of course; accepting, understanding, and processing are rarely immediate actions.

What struck me as truly powerful in this book was that at whatever age these girls wrote, they beautifully illuminated their loss and what it meant to them. Some poems read like pleas – pleas for a mother to return. Some stories tug at the rage they felt for having someone taken from them. Some eerily capture the sensation that a departed loved one somehow lives on with us in the present, no matter how well – or how little – we knew them.

However these girls chose to deal with their grief, one thing is certain: they wrote. At some point they made the conscious decision to take pen to paper to both express and understand the loss of their mothers. Just as talking and communicating can be cathartic and important, writing can help us better understand what it is that we’re feeling: grief, anger, loneliness, abandonment, confusion.

So, if it suits you, start writing. It is what I’m doing, and I’m learning a lot as I go through this journey with you, exploring what it means to express how I feel about death.

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Being There

By Anne Bonaparte: April 18, 2020

I have a long commute and it starts early. At around 6:00 one morning last week, I had just stopped at a red light and I was lost in thought, musing about the day ahead. Just then, a car turned onto the street and hit a pedestrian midstride. The man flew over the moving car’s windshield and landed right next to mine.

In that instant, I jolted awake. I leapt out of my car, madly trying to dial 911 while checking to see if the man who was struck was breathing. For five interminable minutes, I tried to care for the man, while frantically stopping ongoing traffic headed right for him and me.

The response from my city’s emergency response crew was fantastic. As soon as they arrived, they took over and the injured man was swiftly taken away for medical treatment. I am quite sure he lived, and is recovering now.

As for me, I was seriously shaken. Many of us drive our cars every day, but how often do we remember that we need to be alert to everything that is going on around us – especially when we’re driving a 3,000-pound vehicle? The incident also woke me up, reminding me once again of the ephemeral nature of life and the reality that bad things happen to good people, every day.

That same week, my husband and I received news of two friends’ deaths – both in their late 40s, a time of life when death seems so abrupt and unplanned and unfair. The accident and these two deaths reminded me that being wiser about death doesn’t always mean we’re prepared for it emotionally.

Since founding DeathWise, I seem to be called upon much more often when deaths occur. Friends and friends of friends want advice about practical considerations – planning a funeral or memorial service. Professionals want to offer suggestions about resources that could be valuable to people. Sometimes people call because they just want a few comforting words.

These last calls are the hardest ones for me. I wish I could always say exactly the right thing or offer the solace that would make some of the pain go away. But like most people, I usually feel quite helpless, and not too helpful. Because there is a part of death we cannot prepare for, and that is anticipating how we are going to feel when someone we care about dies and how we are going to deal with that loss.

What I do know is that recovering from the death of a loved one is a process, not an event, and it takes time: Time to heal, time to reflect, time to confront one’s own mortality.

Sometimes the best thing that someone else can do is just be there.

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High Anxiety

By Anne Bonaparte: April 12, 2020

Since I founded DeathWise, all kinds of articles and books that talk about death tend to catch my eye more often than they did before.

Last year, I was drawn to an article that New York Times columnist Liesl Schillinger wrote about the fear of flying and especially our heightened anxiety in a post-9/11 world. Her message was that travel has always involved risk whether it’s by plane, car, boat, or foot, and even a horrible event like 9/11 should not stop us from exploring the world.

Ms. Schillinger makes some compelling arguments. We come to understand and appreciate other cultures by seeing them; and the only way to travel long distances in any reasonable amount of time is to fly. Without getting on a plane we would never see the history we read about in books or hear the beautiful languages of the world and the delicious Pad Thai I had for dinner last night never would have made it here.

I don’t deny myself journeys that may pose some risk, for I recognize that action involves risk, But I also know that the wise person takes time to plan and prepare so she can enjoy the action without too much anxiety.

I, for one, feel more comfortable knowing that I have shared and documented my wishes if something were to happen to me. I want to know that my husband, my daughters, my extended family and friends would know what I wanted for them, and for myself.
Winston Churchill said, “There is a precipice on either side of you – a precipice of caution and a precipice of over-daring. Taking the time to be prepared for life’s risks and death’s inevitability helps me manage my journey.”

Words to live by.

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Lasting Impressions

By Anne Bonaparte: April 8, 2020

Unless you’ve been unplugged for the last two weeks, you know that the iconic Hollywood actress Elizabeth Taylor died on March 23rd at the age of 79. So much was written about her life and her last years, but something I read last weekend caught my eye.

The news site reported that Ms. Taylor was buried in a top-of-the-line, traditional Jewish casket, made entirely of wood without using any nails. Evidently the wood was mahogany, the casket was lined in red velvet and it cost $11,000.
I don’t know if this story is true, but reading it got me thinking about caskets and the range of options we have today, both in styles and in price.

Believe it or not, $11,000 isn’t even close to the high end of traditional casket prices.

When Michael Jackson died in 2009, it was widely reported that his family commissioned a custom-made, hand-polished gold and bronze casket with a blue crushed velvet interior. At $25,000 it was billed at the “world’s most expensive casket,” but frankly I don’t believe that. Somewhere at sometime, a wealthy eccentric has to have paid more.

At the other end of the spectrum for traditional caskets, you can purchase an 18-gauge steel casket with a crepe interior online from Wal-Mart for as little as $995. A similar product, with expedited shipping included, can be purchased online from Costco for $1,299.

For people interested in handcrafted caskets, there are an equal number of options and price points. For example, since 1999 an order of Trappist monks in Iowa has been self-sufficient by hand making eco-friendly wooden caskets and selling them directly to families at wholesale prices. Wood for the caskets is taken directly from the order’s 1,200-acre forest, where the monks plant far more new trees than they harvest, ensuring sustainability. These caskets are beautiful works of art in addition to being functional and eco-friendly, and are not as expensive as you might think. Prices start at around $1,000.
Eco-friendly caskets have become very popular in recent years and wood is not the only material being used. You can buy caskets made of bamboo, banana leaf, willow, wool and even biodegradable cardboard. At the low end, a simple cardboard casket can cost as little as $345 plus shipping.

Hugo Black, one of the longest sitting Associate Justices in the history of the U.S. Supreme Court, approached his casket decision with clear direction – “simple and cheap.” He clearly wanted people to see that the cost of a coffin does not reflect a person’s stature nor is it a measure of love of the living for the dead. Honoring his wishes, his family selected a plain pine box.

To each his own, of course. What choice would you make for yourself?

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The Conversation That Never Happened

By Anne Bonaparte: April 5, 2020

I founded DeathWise® to avoid the unintended consequences of not talking about death. I had some personal experience.

My uncle died several years back. He was 86 and had led an interesting life, filled with passions for trains and all things mechanical. He was beginning to suffer a bit with some typical old-age symptoms and so it was not a huge surprise when old age overtook him and he died.

What was a surprise was that no one close to him had ever talked with him about his wishes about his body or services once he had passed on. We all gathered of course, and then sat around discussing the situation for hours, over several days, “What do you think he wanted – burial or cremation?” “Where do you think he wanted his body/cremains laid to rest?” “What do you think his wishes were for his possessions” “Do you think he wanted a memorial service?”

It was personally so frustrating to me. I wanted to honor him by honoring his wishes. But I had no idea what they were.

On one level, he was dead, so why did it matter? On the other hand, it tortured me to wonder if we were about to make decisions that he would never had made. And it was maddening. Why hadn’t he told us what he wanted? Why hadn’t we asked? I wished that we could turn back the clock for just a few minutes, but of course we couldn’t. That opportunity was lost forever.

As you might imagine, different family members had different ideas about what he would have wanted or what should be done given that we really didn’t know. So there were numerous new tensions created, and challenging discussions going on – right at a time when we wanted to be focused on grieving and celebrating his life. Rather than being a healing time, it was a time of conflict.

After several long days, we finally made the necessary decisions and worked through the challenging and emotional steps of dealing with the body, cremains, possessions, service details and so on. I can only hope he would have been happy with the choices we made for him.

Even now, it feels sad that he did not have the opportunity to tell us what he wanted. And some of the tensions created in our family over the decisions we made unfortunately remain.

I can’t help but think: it did not have to be this way.

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Reconcilable Differences

By Anne Bonaparte: March 30, 2020

Death is a tricky topic between couples and within families.

I learned this when my husband, Judd, and I had our most recent conversation about preparing for our own deaths. We thought we were prepared. We had updated our will and placed copies in appropriate secure places. Then we realized we had not had talked at all about several key decisions not included in a typical will. Did we want burial or cremation? What kind of a memorial service did we want, assuming we wanted one at all? Did we want to write letters to our three daughters to be read immediately after our deaths? Or did we want those letters held until they reached a certain age.

Interestingly, for us the burial versus cremation topic was the toughest. The disposition of our bodies, when we finally started talking about it, definitely felt like a taboo topic. It turned out I had no idea my husband felt so strongly about burial as his personal choice. Equally surprising, I realized that I had no strong feelings either way. Even after much contemplation and discussion, I still had no strong preference. Then I thought about it from my children’s point of view. Would it be difficult for them to bury one of us and cremate the other, if we both happened to die at the same time? That divergent choice, without understanding why, could easily raise some challenging questions for them, with unintended consequences.

So I decided to be buried like my husband, and we documented our wishes along with our desires for a memorial service. The standard will does not prompt these types of questions, so we just wrote down what we want, signed and dated the paper, and put it away with all of our other important documents. I felt a little lighter after making that big decision. So much so, we were inspired to take the next big step in planning – buying a plot where we want to be buried.

We figured since we’d made the decision and the price of burial plots was only going to go up, we’d check that activity off our list, making it that much easier for our children. I admit they got a little queasy when we said we were going to check out favorite spots in the cemetery we had chosen… but Judd and I actually had a lovely afternoon together exploring a topic we had never raised with each other in our 23 years of marriage.

With these important decisions made for the future, we comfortably moved back into making life’s daily decisions. We did not look back. We did not dwell on the choices we made. We felt good that we had taken steps to make life much easier for our children after we’re gone.

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The One and The Many

By Anne Bonaparte: March 25, 2020

The number of deaths in Japan caused by the earthquake and tsunami of two weeks ago has risen to an official count of more than 10,000. Officials estimate that another 17,000 or more people are missing.

These numbers are huge. Still, amid the horror of the images of the tsunami ravaging coastal towns and cities and the worrisome plumes of smoke rising out of damaged nuclear reactions, here is what I remember most:

The mother interviewed on Japanese television who turned from the camera for a moment to bow to her rescuers and express her gratitude for saving her life. Turning back to the interviewer, she tearfully mourned her daughter, who’d been swept from her arms when the tsunami hit.

The young man standing in front of the pile of debris that had been the home he’d shared with his mother and father. He’d lost track of his father during the tsunami and said had not seen him since, but was sure his mother’s body lay somewhere beneath the rumble behind him. He vowed to reunite his parents in death, if not in life.

The awkward joy of an American father reunited by telephone with his young adult son in front of a television audience of millions of people around the world. The father told his son he loved him. The son – clearly dazed and exhausted – replied, “I love you, too, Dad. Tell Mom I love her.”

It was Joseph Stalin, of all people, who said that one death is a tragedy, but a million deaths is a statistic. Why is it that we have a stronger emotional response to individual victims of a natural disaster or a crime but our eyes glaze over when large numbers of people we don’t know and can’t see are suffering?

A group of researchers from Northwestern and Harvard universities calls it “The Scope-Severity Paradox.” Judgments of harm, they found, are based more on emotions than logic, and so people react more when they are forced to think about its effects on one person. It’s why television crews descending on scenes of mass suffering will focus on the personal stories of the people involved – they want us to react emotionally.
What’s going on in Japan right now – and what has happened countless times in human history and will happen countless more times – is death and suffering on a scale so large we can barely comprehend it.

But while Stalin was right that one death is a tragedy, he was wrong about the death of millions. A million deaths are a million tragedies, played out one at a time.

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DeathWise: The Official Launch

By Anne Bonaparte: March 24, 2020

DeathWise officially launched on Tuesday, March 22. The outpouring of emails, feedback, stories and suggestions has been incredible. Clearly, we are exploring an issue that strikes a chord for many people.

One email I received this morning touched me deeply. I was introduced to a wonderful concept – No One Dies Alone – through an article published in the Detroit Free Press. The program originated in 2001 at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Eugene, Oregon and provides companions to terminally ill patients with no friends or family members. The concept has been extended, and there are now volunteer programs all over America providing this needed service to dying patients and their families.

“This is humanity at its ultimate,” says Dr. Ken Richter, the medical director of Palliative Care at St. Joseph Mercy Oakland Hospital in Pontiac, Michigan. “People are coping with the big questions.”

It is so inspiring to see these programs in place, offering comfort and care to people who may be alone and in need of support at such a difficult time. You can read the full article here:

One of the areas we want to build out for DeathWise® is a more comprehensive resource directory beyond the Advance Directives for health care and organ donor resources we have today. I look forward to learning more about how we can support people who are dying and the people supporting them.

Please keep your suggestions flowing.