The Plague Pyre

I wanted my triumphant return to this blog to be more personal, or at least more peppy: a zippy analysis of grief and ritual in outer space (see: Guardians of the Galaxy and Covenant), intergenerational relationships connecting at a nexus of death in popular media (a.k.a., the return of Twin Peaks), a narrative about using social media to stay connecting with the ailing and the grieving… but, due to circumstance, this is instead an extremely didactic post about misconceptions about HIV/AIDS and the funeral arts in the year 2017.

Contradictions

For one of my theology courses, I have the task of interviewing at least one ministry professional and/or end of life lay care professional per unit; ideally, this is meant to demonstrate some above and beyond level of commitment to the course material to my course instructor, and more to the point, it’s probably meant to reinforce ideas learned from the material itself in order to cement a learned understanding of the doctrine.

However, that just hasn’t been… exactly what’s come of it.

“I want us to keep in touch.” That was what Chaplain P said after I pushed the ‘end’ button on my recorder. “I want to keep in touch over this summer and have you shadow our chaplains after your surgery.”

I am obliged to state…

On the first day of my INELDA death doula training in Raleigh, NC, I sat at a table with a woman who was living and working in the City part-time in 2001 who happened to have commuted back to PA on the day of 9/11 as well as with a woman who lived in Blacksburg, VA, where Virginia Tech sits at the center.

Our facilitator is INELDA Executive Director, Henry Fersko-Weiss, a man who follows the school of The Good Death while carefully avoiding such terminology as if there were a hidden trademark. He urges volunteers in training and would-be professionals to commit to a zen-like state of utility to create the most selfless and supportive environment in the deathbed room for passing peaceably. Someone from the other side of the room asks “Will we be covering the deaths of children?” Another asks “Will we be covering deaths that aren’t planned and happen suddenly—like suicides or tragic deaths?”

13 Reasons Why I Gave it a Shot (and am glad I did)

As is wont to be with virtually all things, the internet populace is two-party opinionated on the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why: either it’s the worst thing that’s ever happened with regards to showcasing death by suicide in the media, or it’s the most moving call to arms for suicide casualty awareness and youth mental health support.

Scene: February 2017, yours truly + 20 other virtual strangers in an office pod on the second floor of an office building (occupied by Somos Orlando, a latinx outreach program for LGBT folk, families and allies). We are in an 8 hour workshop for mental health first aid targeted specifically to the youth. For 8 grueling hours, we observe interviews with suicide survivors (who go graphically in depth with their stories), we practice mock interventions in hypothetical scenarios that gradually increase their severity with deeper and deeper involvement, we even go so far as to facilitate mental health crisis scenarios by simulating auditory hallucinations—a colleague and I sit this one out, because this scenario hits just too close to our own special sense of unreality.

Happy birthday to me

I turned 27 on April 1 of this past weekend. Before that happened, I was 26-years-old and on the cusp of a nervous meltdown in my therapist’s office on March 31, which was also also transgender visibility day.

Death in Black and White: Artborne April 2017

Similar to my recurring ‘Death in the Movies’ feature, I feel it only appropriate to come up with a snappy title for a recurring feature on themes of death and dying in the written word!

A few weeks ago, I was approached by a reader of this blog to contribute a piece to a grassroots magazine devoted to the local art scene. This was a fantasy scenario come to life. In all of my idyllic moments in studying the past masters and beacons of culture, I’ve daydreamed of being the very same sort of Romantic iconoclast. It was actually the hinging principle of why I took two gap years from being a student to go into teaching. Really.

Don’t Go Into the White Light

I spent several hours over the course of several days after seeing Get Out combing the internet for a very specific kind of think piece: one that taps into the vein of the typically cis, typically white, typically male obsession with immortality. But it wasn’t there. Or, I should say, it wasn’t in the typical death positive spaces or death and dying circles.

Treading Water

These past two weeks have been a whirlwind. There are some fun and very privileged opportunities that I’ve been able to secure, and I’m very excited to share those here in the next coming weeks; but one of those things I can share right now is my StoryCorps session with the inimitable S. Elizabeth of Unquiet Things, Haute Macabre and, of course, Skeletor is Love fame.

Fear of a Dead Planet (Death in the Movies: The Wall)

When I was in high school, I was an avid “LJer”–a person who used an early community-blogging platform known as “livejournal” which, famously, “died off” in approx. 2009 after turning over ownership to a Russian media company, SUP Media. Apparently since then, LJ servers have actually migrated from their native San Francisco California to Russia, and the LJ community (or should we more aptly state, the Zhivoy Zhurnal community) is tied very closely to an online newspaper, the Gazeta, and is largely made up of prominent political pundits who use the blogging interface for political commentary.

[Y]Our confirmation¸

Over the course of the terminal weeks of January and the start of February, my parents have sent me at least a dozen shipments of large boxes containing clothes, objects, memorabilia, photo books, actual books, trinkets and clippings. In one of these boxes was a tabletop font (a small, crude ceramic angel holding a baby Christ enveloped around a manger) and an envelope containing a taped together newspaper obituary, a photograph and a note written on an index card.

Death in the Movies, February 2017

Every once in a while I want to use media to reaffirm or to challenge some idea about death, and so I’m using this as an opportunity to tentatively broach a recurring segment called ‘Death in the Movies’ (or books, comics, music, etc.).

In two weeks’ time, my partner and a fellow hearse hobbyist friend have been to the movies twice for two different death-related flicks in February. One was a new release in the cinema itself, The Autopsy of Jane Doe, the other was Harold and Maude in the park. The rest of the month is largely TBA, with the exception of True Romance on February 14th (thematically appropriate), so I can’t rightly claim whether the theme of ‘death in the movies’ is actually a recurring theme or just a timely coincidence.

Car Talk, Deathcab Edition

This week’s entry is going to be a little bit different from the previous entries, so please, in advance, forgive the sappy, nostalgic nature of this fluff piece. Because way before I even had any designs to be in the death care field, I had A Mighty Need, and that need was to procure a hearse.