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?”
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.
Admittedly, this is kind of a niche point for much of think piece culture, but this *should* be an easy hit in the death positive scene, in the TEDMed scene, in the philosophical circles, since the base conversation point (the obsession with immortality) isn’t necessarily new; Caitlin Doughty specifically uses racial and gendered language it in her ‘Ask a Mortician’ videos and, more intimately, in her memoir Smoke gets In Your Eyes, where she describes a date with a white neuroscientist PhD candidate who’s sole motivator is life-youthful-and-eternal, and exactly why that makes him the most boring and insipid kind of person.
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.
Not timely enough to anticipate the cold snap we had this past weekend, though.