Death has changed. And little by little, we are changing, too. Once a taboo topic, it’s being talked about more openly, more often. Machines are keeping us alive, for better or worse. Death is defined differently, regarded differently.
Californians now have End of Life legislation, thanks to Brittany Maynard’s outspoken courage.Hospice care means more people can die comfortably at home if they prefer. People are talking to their loved ones, using Advance Directives, detailing how they wish to spend their final days.
There are more books, radio segments, and Ted Talks about the quality of life when death is imminent. In Albuquerque, the Doyenne of Death, Gail Rubin, uses podcasts and hosts events that include humor and movie clips to get her audience comfortable with funeral planning.
Funerals are no longer somber events, exclusive to clergy. Celebrants and lay people conduct memorial services and celebrations of life, not just in houses of worship, but in community centers and backyards.
The formal suit and tie or frothy gown is no longer expected attire for the decedent. Instead, we honor our dead by dressing them in athletic uniforms, street wear, and clothing that had meaning during their lives. Dallas TX Senior Cpl. Lorne Ahrens had expressed his specific wishes long before he died. Instead of wearing a uniform and badge, he wanted to be buried in a T-shirt, shorts, and no shoes.
People are increasingly choosing cremation. Remains are made into jewelry, bookends, and meaningful mementoes. Others actively seek to donate their body to medical research and for teaching. Some want to return to the earth in a green burial. A few will have their remains shot into outer space.
People are attending Death Cafes, where they drink tea, eat cake, and share their thoughts and feelings about death. Communities around the world are using giant chalkboards and art installations in public spaces to generate conversation about death. The “Before I Die” wall gives people a chance to fill in the blank: “Before I Die I Want To…..” with a dream or a goal.
Death has changed. Have you changed your outlook on the subject?