Mourning Strangers

Sandra Bland, Cash Askew, Jonathan Bernbaum, Donna Kellogg.  Each of these names was brand new to me in the past eighteen months, and all of them only entered into my world through their dying.  Sandra Bland’s death in her Texas jail cell under police custody caused outrage and questions of foul play.  Askew, Bernbaum, and Kellogg were three of the 36 people who died in the Ghost Ship fire in Oakland.  I have never met any of those people; I never will.  And yet the loss of their lives stirs something in me that feels like grief. Their deaths elicit […]

Mourning Celebrities

It was a cold January day; I was sitting at my computer working on a particularly challenging dissertation chapter, one that studied the state of death in contemporary Western culture – how we talk about death, how we support the dying, types of education we create about death, dominant approaches to death in our world today. A friend sent me a text message informing me that musician David Bowie had died. One moment, I was witnessing and commenting on that world – the collective construct of death we together have created and continue to create – and the next I […]

Death at the New Year

Today, countless people around the globe are celebrating the New Year with ritual, food, drink, music, and merriment. We will toss out the old and ring in the new. And this year, it seems that many people cannot rid themselves of the passing year fast enough. Peppered throughout my Facebook feed are messages like, “I’m so done with 2016”. And parts of me agree. 2016 has been a year of sadness and loss for so many of us — on personal, communal, and societal levels. But I also know that endings of things – even the things we find distasteful […]

Assisted Dying: Expanding the Conversation

I have been dying for the past sixteen years.  A rare and serious heart and lung condition has led to three separate experiences with death – three times “getting my affairs in order”, three times attempting to prepare my children for a life without me (my eldest was a baby when I first was diagnosed), three times struggling to navigate the vast, sometimes beautiful and sometimes treacherous landscape of death. So I think about End of Life Options a great deal.  I think about those options in terms of my own life.  I think about those options every time I […]