In “When I Die: Lessons from the Death Zone” Philip Gould shares his thoughts and insights as he confronts his impending death from oesophageal cancer. How do we approach death whilst embracing life? How can we change the conversation around death and palliative care for the terminally ill?
Philippe Charlier, a physician and anthropologist, is known for his forensic research into some of France’s most famous dead.
Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.
“This week there was an obituary about the man [Curtis Allina] who developed the Pez dispenser. It was an incredible obituary because he was raised in Vienna, lost his entire family at Auschwitz, and came to America and worked for this company that made peppermints, which is what Pez is short for. He did something that was considered completely trivial, which was designing and marketing Pez dispensers. But I think the sum of every obituary is how heroic people are, and how noble. So it gives you a nice beginning to the day.”
Summer 2009: “The Summer of Death.” It’s the summer we lost Michael Jackson, Pina Bausch, John Hughes, Merce Cunningham, Walter Cronkite, Ted Kennedy, and Patrick Swayze. It’s also the summer I lost my grandmother. She passed away three years ago today on July 11, 2009. She was 93 and lived a good life.
It was that summer I came up with the idea for Deathworks. It didn’t have a name at the time, but I knew it was a subject I needed to explore, confront, and understand. I didn’t want to live a life fearing death. Instead I wanted to use death as motivation — to live a full and purposeful life without regret. It took me three years to launch this project, but better late than never. Sadly, it took the untimely deaths of more heroes and even some friends to get my act together to start this site. Death is a great motivator. It always works.
Deathworks will also explore the industry of death, profiling the professionals who work in it — the funeral home directors, gravediggers, and autopsists. It will shed light on traditions and rituals of death around the world. It will ask notable names to tackle the subject head-on in a series of interviews, and it will honor the memories and legacies of those we love.
Examining death from these angles should serve not just as reminders of our own mortality, but hopefully as guides and inspiration for our own lives.
Thank you for joining me in this journey. ‘Til death do us part,
July 11, 2012
Deathworks is brought to you by Elephant & Grape.