These two quotations, centuries apart, express similar sentiments. I have recently been exploring our reticence as a society to discuss the one thing we all have in common: death. Denial and magical thinking won’t wish it away, acknowledging its inevitability will free us to embrace life to its fullest. As I witness friends, and parents of friends, I see that there are lots of ways to move toward our final destination, none right or wrong, but like many things, more meaningful if executed mindfully.
To begin to demystify that mysterious “awfully big adventure” that awaits us all I’ve been reading voraciously, watching documentaries, and talking to friends. I’ve been compiling a bibliography on various aspects of the phenomenon: medicalization, funeral industry, hospice care, Near Death Experience, reincarnation, etc.
I’ve been co-hosting a Death Cafe at the Potrero Branch Library for over five years. Death Cafes became virtual during the pandemic, the silver lining of which allowed attendees from all over the world. Check out DeathCafe.com to learn more about this “social franchise” which offers an opportunity to discuss any and all aspects of the stigmatized topic.
I am also involved with the Final Exit Network, an important organization that provides individuals information, education and support for hastening their own death. I’ve been volunteering as regional coordinator for over three years, finding my interactions with callers immensely inspiring. I’m honored to have two of my essays describing my experiences chosen to appear in the newsletters: Winter 2018 and Spring 2019. You can also check the Final Exit Network Web site for the latest newsletter and more information.
A few years ago, my boyfriend, Allan, and I purchased, decorated, and unveiled our niche at the San Francisco Columbarium (and arranged for our cremations). I have revised my will and advance care directive, and a hot pink POLST is on my refrigerator. I continue to put my affairs in order, confident that my wishes are more likely to be observed when they have been set down.