28 July 2010

Open Invitation For Discourse On Death

So, I'd like to open up a discussion about death. Yes, it may seem that I'm fixated or a broken record--First this chick writes about zombies, then a dead teacher, then funerals...when does the necrophilia come out? (Let me just say, NEVER.)--but hear me out for just a minute.

I recently read a book called "Sacred Dying" by Megory Anderson. In it, Anderson raises some amazing, thought-provoking concerns about death. To paraphrase, our culture--Western Culture--has lost its respect for the act of dying. Long ago, a whole community might turn out to send someone off to the next world. Death carried with it a sense of the sacred, of true Mystery. As time went on, Death became a family event. A person died in their home with their families and then their body would be laid out in the parlor for viewing until the funeral services. Now, in our highly technological age, death is seen as a defeat. You "lose your fight" with cancer or AIDS or whatever. When "all other efforts fail" it's time for your loved ones to "make arrangements".

But what about the dying?

They have needs to, right? And I'm not talking medical. I'm talking about emotional/spiritual/psychological. It goes beyond Last Rites, although that is definitely part of it.

It seems to me that Death is this big thing that we have grown to fear. And who wouldn't? It's this great Mystery cloaked in folklore, ooky legends and we have no idea what it's like until we live it. No one is 100% certain of what waits for us. We all have our ideas, sure. Heaven? Judgment? Void? Reunion? There are billions of individual afterlives out there in the minds of the living. But when it comes right down to it, we ignore the dying.

All too often someone who is terminal will begin telling people their last wishes and well-meaning loved ones will brush those aside. "No, you're going to pull through." Denial and love. But that person's needs have been cast off.

Dying is, I feel, a sacred experience. You only get one shot at it. Shouldn't it be done peacefully? Gracefully? With honor, dignity and a sense of wonder? Maybe a little ceremony?

Now, I'm not trying to glamorize Death. I'm not trying to pin a bright smiley face on the Reaper's shroud. You want that? Go to Hot Topic or something.  I'm not arguing about euthenasia or the right to assisted suicide. No politics here. I'm trying to think about people. I'm trying to illuminate some of this shadey area of our collective psyche.

And that's where you come in.

I recently heard the term "Midwife for the Soul" and it sings to me. This is running in tandem with my desire to pursue celebrancy as a career. Essentially, the Midwife for the Soul helps the dying move from this world to the next. How? Depends on the needs of THAT person. Do they need someone to pray with? Someone to hold their hand at the last moments? A sing-along? (I'm not kidding.) Like the traditional midwife that coaxes a baby into this world with care and helps the mother do what comes naturally, a Midwife for the soul is there for support.

This vocation speaks to me on many levels and I've included it in my research.

Part of that research is finding out what is out there in the hearts and minds of others.

What do you think happens when we die? Is it wholly a physical experience? Is it spiritual? Is it both?
What happens AFTER we die?
What fears do you have?


yeah, I'm asking you to think of things that are almost taboo in our culture where medicine fixes all and weakness is akin to shame. Call me curious. Call me creepy. But, I'd really like to know your thoughts. Feel free to comment here or email me. For my viewers on Facebook, comment there or message me.

EDITED TO ADD: Please don't feel the need to write short comments. I want you to write me novels if that's what it takes to express your view. So let's pass the talking stick around. 

2 comments:

Krista said...

We will have a long talk in person sometime soon. This brings up some stuff that I would rather talk than write. Also, I really need to find a way to connect you to my 'death chicks'. I think especially Anna, who works in hospice.

The Filthy Russian said...

Blood lust trickles out of my fingers with every word I write. In storytelling, the ideas we latch onto involve someone's expiration because we're all perfectly capable of repeating the act. Mention the death of another, and the immediate question follows: How? It's a natural inquiry, the mind breaking down the scenario and coming up with the best course to avoid a similar result. For example, a friend or relative eats shrimp dipped in peanut butter cocktail sauce out of a cat hair bowl. After a few seconds, they're in anaphylactic shock and dead minutes later. This tells me I should not eat shrimp dipped in peanut butter sauce out of a cat hair bowl--not without an epi pen. Death is the final bastion of the unknown. If humanity truly understood death, the churches and holy books would snap shut for good. In the meantime, it's good for content.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...