7 posts tagged death
I’d rather be dissected
There are never enough whole-body donations to science. Why don’t more people want their death to help the living?
…My body, I learned, could help improve safety belts in a car or seats in a train. My brain might help designers make helmets that mitigate the traumatic brain injuries an American football player sustains in a rough tackle, or a soldier gets from the shockwave of a bomb blast. When the research is done, if my family wishes, they can have my cremated remains (in which case, I wouldn’t mind if my ashes are spread somewhere I once loved). If not, I might be honoured alongside other unclaimed donors by a plaque, a tree, or a solemn annual ceremony. (via Why would I donate my body to science? – Brooke Borel – Aeon)
read of the day: Death has become too sanitised. It needs raucous laughter and a little bit of living to make it real again
Several days after leaving Winchester and walking the South Downs Way through southern England, filming ourselves and the landscape, and endlessly talking, we reached the perilous cliffs of Beachy Head. From these vertically pitched, chalk-white heights, desperate souls have flung themselves to a brutal end, and countless ships have been wrecked at their rocky base. I’d imagined May sunshine, and us all sitting in a circle on the grassy cliff top. But as we approached our journey’s close, rain thrashed down, gales blew, and I could no longer see the cliff edge for fog rising from the sea. In the distance, I could just make out the outlines of crosses — memorials to past suicides. Then I spotted a table and, as I got closer, blue and yellow balloons tied by strings to its legs, dancing, hysterical, in the wind. Cake stands held green-iced sponges — one, topped with plastic lambs, another with the Way’s Long Man of Wilmington drawn on it in white icing. A Union Flag stirred in the air, its pole poking up from a sponge topped with green hills and a cowshed.
I had joined ‘A 100-Mile Conversation’ halfway through. A film project by the London artists Nathan Burr and Louis Buckley, it had progressed, in real time, from Winchester, across the M3 motorway, down through the Chilcomb Valley, then east along the coast. The purpose? To discuss suicide. Bringing the cake had been my idea. How apt, I’d thought, how crazy even, to celebrate the project’s end by drinking tea on a cliff edge; how right, somehow, to celebrate life with an abundance of cake at a beauty spot marred by the sadness of suicide jumpers.
One month later, and I’m tangled up with cake and death again. I’m at a Death Café, drinking loose-leaf Assam at London’s Royal College of Art with eight strangers. We finger mugs and wipe cake crumbs from our lips. I’ve set the others an exercise. A petite woman beside me reads from a sheet of paper on the tablecloth: ‘The first words that came to mind when I thought of the word death,’ she smiles, ‘were fucking bloody shit.’ ‘Death Cafés’ were a frequent topic of conversation on the 100-mile walk: the two had much in common in wanting to probe people’s personal connection to death. I’d attended several, intrigued by the dynamics that might unfold there, but also drawn there by personal loss. Now I was hosting my own.
You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy…
We all believe that death is bad. But why is death bad? In thinking about this question, I am simply going to assume that the death of my body is the end of my existence as a person. (If you don’t believe me, read the first nine chapters of my book.) But if death is my end, how can it be bad for me to die? After all, once I’m dead, I don’t exist. If I don’t exist, how can being dead be bad for me? People sometimes respond that death isn’t bad for the person who is dead. Death is bad for the survivors. But I don’t think that can be central to what’s bad about death. Compare two stories. Story 1. Your friend is about to go on the spaceship that is leaving for 100 Earth years to explore a distant solar system. By the time the spaceship comes back, you will be long dead. Worse still, 20 minutes after the ship takes off, all radio contact between the Earth and the ship will be lost until its return. You’re losing all contact with your closest friend. Story 2. The spaceship takes off, and then 25 minutes into the flight, it explodes and everybody on board is killed instantly. Story 2 is worse. But why? It can’t be the separation, because we had that in Story 1. What’s worse is that your friend has died. Admittedly, that is worse for you, too, since you care about your friend. But that upsets you because it is bad for her to have died. But how can it be true that death is bad for the person who dies? (via Is Death Bad for You? - The Chronicle Review - The Chronicle of Higher Education)
Pam Sakuda was 55 when she found out she was dying. Shortly after having a tumor removed from her colon, she heard the doctor’s dreaded words: Stage 4; metastatic. Sakuda was given 6 to 14 months to live. Determined to slow her disease’s insidious course, she ran several miles every day, even during her grueling treatment regimens. By nature upbeat, articulate and dignified, Sakuda — who died in November 2006, outlasting everyone’s expectations by living for four years — was alarmed when anxiety and depression came to claim her after she passed the 14-month mark, her days darkening as she grew closer to her biological demise. Norbert Litzinger, Sakuda’s husband, explained it this way: “When you pass your own death sentence by, you start to wonder: When? When? It got to the point where we couldn’t make even the most mundane plans, because we didn’t know if Pam would still be alive at that time — a concert, dinner with friends; would she still be here for that?” When came to claim the couple’s life completely, their anxiety building as they waited for the final day.