“Your voice reminds me of Nomi from Sense8–have you seen that? Do you know who I’m talking about?”
Todd and I met on a whim of chance. It’s Gay Days weekend, an event that partially extends to the Walt Disney World resort, and it’s the first since what happened at Pulse. Todd came to the concierge counter to assist us, even though a woman was already at that station, also available to help us. Within the first few words we exchanged, I knew that Todd was gay, and he knew that I’m trans (even if he, like many others, are not quite certain of ‘where’ my transition journey is headed).
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?”
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.
This excerpt comes from one of my dearest and most favourite of friends. We’ve been going at this ritual of giving each other the most outrageous send-ups on our respective birthdays for the past 10 years (!!!).
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.
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.
This post is a slightly modified version of an essay I submit for my theology course; the name of my late priest has been censored for his privacy and for mine. If you recognize the man in the photograph or the church, and/or if you know who my parents are, and/or if you know where I am attending school, I’m imploring you NOT to make any contact that would identify myself or the content of this post.
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.
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.