Death has been stalking me for a more intimate relationship. He first showed up when my mother’s 92-year old partner was dying. Then I got a crush on an accidental deathwalker (death midwife) in Australia. Home again, I met Azul, who was eager to share his spiritual approach to dying, a year past when he “should’ve” died.
Next, death became a trickster as my friend Rosie, reacted to his terminal diagnosis with a new romance and 3 stand-up comedy performances about dying. In Bali, I witnessed a mass cremation, a ritual with richness and beauty that reached beyond time and space. We baby boomers have reinvented every life passage: love & relationships; cohabitating & marriage; childbearing & child-rearing; aging itself.
Are we, without noticing, reinventing death? Don, my tango partner, says “Cathy, dying doesn’t have to be sad,” and then takes medication from Oregon Death with Dignity. I bounce between fears, awareness, and denial. Yet death is ever-present. Though random, it’s certain, and soon my parents will die. I don’t want to lose them. Death will take them differently. My dad (90 soon), a medical doctor will use every medical means to stay alive (I think…I don’t know because he refuses to talk about it.) while my mom, 89, is so comfortable she discusses death as if planning a picnic. How do we prepare? Is it possible to die well?