How do you want to die? “Not at all” isn’t an option. We’re all what Dickens called “fellow passengers to the grave.” If you press people, they’ll say they hope to go out in one fell stroke, or to pass on quietly at home, surrounded by family. But we’re more likely to die in intensive care. Maybe that’s partly because we’re afraid to talk about death ahead of time. There’s a growing movement to bring engagement with death back into our culture, through death salons, home funerals, and meaningful end-of-life care.
TRBQ Podcast #16 — Choosing to Stay
These are the final words of Jennifer Michael Hecht’s most recent book: “Choose to stay.”
Hecht argues against suicide as an escape from despair. She offers two reasons. Choosing to stay allows you the chance to be helpful to someone else. And, she says you owe your future self a chance at happiness.
Hecht talks with Dean Olsher about her book, Stay: A History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against It.
TRBQ Podcast #14 — Take My Corpse, Please
Mary Roach wants you to give yourself away. Not yet, though. After you’re dead. She wrote a book called “Stiff,” in which she details what has happened over the years to bodies that were donated—willingly or unwillingly—to science.
“I think that, for many people, does take the edge off it,” Roach says. “You know there is some good coming from something that’s otherwise kind of a bummer.”
Calling the Spirits
The TRBQ team met Harvard ethnomusicologist Richard Wolf while working on a show about music. But Wolf studies the funeral music of the Kota people in south India, and he has something to say about death, too.
Listen to more of Richard Wolf’s interview on TRBQ’s radio special: What Is a Good Death?
We are dead stars
Every atom in our bodies was fused in the body of an ancient star. NASA astronomer Dr. Michelle Thaller explains how the iron in our blood connects us to one of the most violent acts in the universe—a supernova explosion—and what the universe might look like when all the stars die out.
This video is a collaboration between The Really Big Questions and The Atlantic. Produced by Flora Lichtman and Katherine Wells.
You can also listen to TRBQ’s one-hour radio special, What Is a Good Death?
TRBQ Podcast #5 — Death in Seattle
Americans don’t seem to have much trouble with violent death at the movies. But real death is a different story. Slow, lingering death from old age, funerals, embalming, cremation – these are not really dinner table conversation. A group called The Order of the Good Death is trying to change that. The Order wants to “prepare a death-phobic culture for their inevitable mortality.” Producer Catherine Winter spent some time with members of the Order in Seattle, and rode with a dead woman on her last trip, to the crematorium.