The Natural Death Handbook is a volume that speaks with simple clarity and grace about the best practices for sitting with the dying, washing and cooling a loved one after passing, and preparing the body for a natural funeral.
In this week's issue, Jaweed Kaleem writes about the resurgence of home funerals, a tradition with deep roots in American life. And Ryan Reilly checks in on one of President Obama's original campaign promises: to close the Guantanamo Bay naval base and detention center in Cuba.
A recent ad in the local newspaper by a Denver mortuary and cemetery called Olinger Highland together with another company's offer of a freebie that arrived in the mail, makes the whole post mortem thing enticing.
During the first week or so following the death of someone's child, we are pretty clear about how to help that parent. I am concerned, though, that in our culture, we are at a loss for how to help these parents once the first week or so has passed.
Nearly 2.5 million Americans die every year. With an increasingly diverse nation of the religious and nonreligious, each death is observed differently, but each life is remembered and celebrated with words and stories. The Huffington Post is collecting eulogies for the dead.
Everything stopped. I froze where I was. I didn't want to move because moving meant that he
was actually dead and that I would have to feel it. I would have to feel things that I never felt
before because Quddus was "home" for me.
My father rallied, but he was decidedly diminished. My husband bought a black suit. I did the same. For a year, our suits lived in the empty closet in my grown son's room, zipped safely away in a garment bag. I called mine 'my funeral costume.'
I had never seen anyone die before. My dad went peacefully but still, it was awfully hard to watch. I had my hand on his forehead the whole time. My siblings each held a hand or rested their hand on his leg.
When is a person dead? This question has plagued us for thousands of years. Is there a central organ we can examine, and say that when it's nonfunctioning the person as a whole is dead? Or is there a behavior or set of behaviors that indicate with certainty that our bodies have called it quits?
It may sound peculiar, but there are some very exciting things happening where death is concerned in America. The momentum of change in how we view and respond to death is building in many sectors of society as we transform our culture of death.
We of the Woodstock generation have long been interested in pushing the limits of self-expression, and our desire to noisily overturn convention is unlikely to stop just because we're facing the big chill.