Living / Dying Conversations move discussion and reflection on the profound interface of life and death out of medical, academic, and religious institutions, and into community.
Our April 28 conversation will consider the discussions that we want to have with our families related to our concerns, preferences, hopes, and fears related to death and dying.
The importance of these conversations can arise at any time. Whether we are young and concerned about our parents or grandparents, at mid-life beginning to notice aging in ourselves and our dear ones, or are elderly entering the sunset time of our lives, these family conversations are difficult to approach. Even more challenging can be conversations if a young person or child is facing a terminal condition.
However challenging the circumstances, it is that much more important that we find a way to communicate what we want and need to share with others while we can. It may be practical matters, such as letting them know where our will and financial papers are, and designating an executor. Maybe we want to let them know our wishes for our care in our final weeks, or how we would like our bodies cared for after death. Perhaps we want to share how deeply we love them, or maybe we need to tie up loose ends, to come to forgiveness and reconciliation.
Considering what we conversations and communications we want to have, and mapping out our own plans for making that happen requires thoughtful intention and preparation. Our April Conversation will help us begin to take steps in the direction we choose.
Reflection on death and dying is generally avoided in American culture, yet these very reflections can yield a vibrant sense of what it means to be fully alive, to embrace the full, wild truth of mortality – that innate condition of everyone and everything we have ever known and loved.
Trauma and disease can occur at any stage of life. Accordingly, Living / Dying Conversations are open to everyone, young or not so young, as well as those who work in hospice, caregiving, or medical capacities.
While none of us can anticipate the exact cause or time of our death, we know that dying is the unitary shared experience of everyone and everything that lives. Yet in a death-fearing culture, we’re discouraged from openly considering death, from allowing it into our hearts and minds, from embracing both its remarkable ordinariness and its unparalleled immensity.
This ongoing series will address practical, social, and spiritual issues surrounding death. Perhaps most importantly, we will consider our own experiences with vulnerability, loss, grief, fear, caregiving, and suffering – the strongest grist for the mill as we live and die.
Without promoting a particular interpretation of death, or speculating on what happens after we die, these conversations welcome discussion and recognition of what we DO know: what happens to the body during and after death; the psychological, emotional, and spiritual significance of death; practical and impractical aspects of care as terminal conditions progress; the complexities of “getting our affairs in order;” the impact of death on those who survive; cultural and social conventions, norms, and beliefs relating to death; our rights as we die and the rights of our loved ones in caring for us.
We hope this program will provide opportunity to cultivate a deep, safe, conscious awareness of death as the central fact of life. Over time, we hope to serve as a resource for those who are dying – providing information and materials, spiritual practices and support, creative arts and expression, practical tools and services.
In death-phobic cultures, dread of death contributes to profound problems, personally and in society – alienation, fear, greed, aggression, and consumerism, to name a few. Beginning to look clearly at death, we find life becomes more vibrant and more precious, while death becomes less fearful. We welcome you to join this conversation and be part of this journey.
The initial seeds for this program were planted by Living Earth community members who have faced potentially terminal diagnoses, people whose lives have been transformed by grief, as well as hospice professionals, educators, and volunteers. Please join us in helping this program grow.