Sacred Sundays: let’s talk about death baby, let’s talk about you and me!

8 08 2010

“Let’s talk about all the good things and the bad things that may be, let’s talk about death!”

So, maybe Salt n Peppa didn’t ever think that their lyrics would be changed to talk about the exact opposite of their song “let’s talk about sex”.  However, I find it appropriate as the reason they wrote their song was to get something that no one talked about into the limelight.  The song was saying “HEY! this is something that everyone does and no one ever talks about it, let’s change that.”

I feel the same way about death.  It’s something that EVERYONE (and I mean everyone) does, and no one wants to talk about ever.

I like talking about death.  I like telling my daughter that her food came from the dying of plants and animals.  I like when we find road kill in the city and look at it.  I like explaining to little A about why the cats at grandpa’s house aren’t there anymore.

Is that weird? Unhealthy?

For me, talking about it all the time, integrating it into my everyday life, helps me cope with the inevitability of it.  It helps me process it so that when death of a loved one happens, I’m not so traumatized.  It helps me understand that this is not something that spontaneously happens in a sudden surprise, but is, in fact, happening all around us all the time.

(photo is copyright Neil Gaiman from his Sandman series)

I listened to an interview on CBC the other day, with someone from a village in some impoverished area of the world (missed the beginning on the radio).  It was heart-wrenching to me, but the woman was not traumatized.  She was, in fact, seemingly, happy.  One thing she said about all the death, when asked, was that she was surrounded by death everyday, it was nothing new.  For the interviewer, this was a horrible tragedy.  For me, however, I wondered at the mental health benefits of actually being surrounded by death everyday.

We are, of course, already surrounded by death.  We can’t escape death.  It is inevitable.  However, in our North American culture, people are put into hospitals and nursing homes to die, alone, without family.  Our meat is slaughtered away from us, in large factories, and packaged into nice little bundles that look nothing like the death that brought it to us.  Wars are fought far away, where our leaders can convince us that nothing but heroes and help is being administered by those benevolent soldiers carrying automatic weapons.

We do a very effective job of pretending it doesn’t exist, and then, when it suddenly happens near us, we are surprised, traumatized and unable to deal with it.

We are told to do all we can to avoid death. To live our lives carefully and without risk.  We sanitize and isolate our children from anything that might hurt them.  Often, we spend the end of our days sitting and watching life pass by so that we don’t fall over and die faster. With our fear of death, we can take the joy out of Life.  And then, what are we living for?

I intend that my daughter is raised understanding the cycles that we live in on Earth.  I want her to understand about death and rebirth.  I want her to understand that death an ending, but also a beginning.  That taking life gives life. And, ultimately, I want her to understand that it’s going to happen and we don’t have to be afraid of it, because we have our entire lives to come to terms with it.

How do you live with death?





4 responses

9 08 2010

Yay – the “D” word has been spoken! Thank you Meme. You are so right.

Death is certainly one of the greatest teachers in my life. There are many sacred and spiritual traditions where contemplation of dying is central to their understanding of life.

Very recently we held a Celebration of Life for my Dad. He is dying from terminal cancer. Rather than wait until someone is ‘gone’ to share stories of what they have meant to us and how much they are loved (at their memorial or funeral) we can share these important connections NOW.

If you look at a dead body (next time you see a dead animal at the side of the road) you will see that it is full of life (flies, maggots, birds, trees…). For me this brings new meaning to the term “still life” used it art – often paintings of food/flowers/dead animal. It is still (continuing) life (alive).

btw meme – i adore you♥

9 08 2010

that is amazing what you are doing for your dad. Then he gets to experience the difference that he made in people’s lives before he leaves. I Love it!

Also, I adore you too, Jill!

9 08 2010

i was raised by parents from long lines of farmers, who never hid death from me. both my mom & dad went into medical careers, and both of them therefore continued to be surrounded by death – and to talk about it around the dinner table. i remember having a really clear understanding of death from a young age, and with such a large family deaths were inevitably frequent, and never traumatizing the way they were for many of my friends. i absolutely grieve deeply, and sometimes for a very long time, at losing a loved one, but i wouldn’t say i’ve feared death for myself, or most loved ones.

that all being said, i’ve discovered my anxiety around the death of those for whom i’m responsible – ie. companion animals – grew exponentially after a miscarriage many years ago, and at times the fear of their deaths is paralysing. clearly something i need to let go of before i start parenting 🙂 \

❤ !

9 08 2010

I also grieve for loss, but, like you, am not afraid. being OK with death doesn’t mean that we don’t grieve. sometimes I think people think the only way it OK to grieve is if you were surprised/traumatized by death.

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