Five Challenging Ideas

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Why do you think people have such a hard time facing this inevitable part o life?

It’s note verybdy the world over. It’s not always been the case. Why is it that it seems everyone we know in this time has this problem dilmeme or challenge, this dread/

There’s a few layers to it

All of us come to our time to die as an utter amateur -- we have almost no experience with it.

When i worked in the death trade, as i did for many years, i was asked routinely whether people should bring their kids… to the hospital, the cemetery, the funeral home. What is the script for kids? Are they not to be touched by life? Are they not supposed to know anything? Or be sad? If not when they are 10 or 15 or 25, or, then, when? (11 minutes)

You don’t get any such vote -- as to when you will have a hard time in life -- life’s supposed to be fair and we’re supposed to be an advanced culture and all that and presumably that means we’re supposed to be able to vote when we

Ll have big challenges in our life. And of course i’ms aying that tongue in cheek

People are really riven, really torn asunder by the prospect of death of either themselves or someone they love

So All they have is imagining or projecting and of course most of that is fearful.

The second poverty that we have is that we don’t have a language that the culture bestows to us as we grow up that does justice to any reality that dying is. It doesn’t give us a language to talk about what dying asks of us. And we have euphemeisms coming our our nose, coming out our ears




The great reward

Shuffling off the mortal coil

Kicking the bucket


Most of them are disguises aren’t they?

Why aren’t we allowed to say dying?

Why is “losing” somebody a synonym for someone dying/ Ask yourself what it means to lose someone or something. It describes what YOU did, you lose your car keys, we say “I lost them”

As if the word die has too much finality to it as if we are driving the nail in deeper by saying it.

Your unwillingness to say the word has the conseq of everybodt awljign on egghsells aroudn this whole thing. Who knows what the right language the right behavior the right sound that you’re supposed to make to show that you’re consdierate that you’re sensitive that you’re compassionate and you’re sympathetic.

The answer is to be the most idirect you can be is to be the most sympathetic. And that is an absolute recipe for illiteracy where death is concerned. 14.20


I was probably in my mid 30s or even my late 30s at some point a woman i knew started to pursue me with the idea of joining a staff at a hospital.

I’m not organizational material, it won’t work

She was after me for 2 years

I agreed to run a small group for men who had somebody who was dying or had died.

What i noticed was these men had an enormous capacity for anger. The question is What weren’t they?

What are they not doign? What are they not feeling? What are they not seeing?

They weren’t sad. Because they didn’t know how to be sad.

That was an enormous realization to me.

That prhase should striek you as a bizarre comibation of words, being sad is not something you know, right? it’s something you quote feel

I’m here to tell you -- bc I spent so much time in the death trade -- that being sad, there’s nothing automatic about it when the circumstances seem to warrant it so obviously. In other words there are a lot of people find a way not to be sad or never discover a way to be sad i t never occurs to them to be sad

I’ve run into just as many women who have a similar challenge in this regard, so it’s not a gender thing, and it’s not from childhood. It’s in our culture. The inability to be sad is a culture wide dilemme, you see.

You try to surface the idea of sadness it’s dismissed very quickly.

It’s kind of a useless thing to feel. It’s very hard to act on sadness. But anger, hell yeah we know what to do with that.

The deeper understanding of what’s happening is that the culture which gave me my education and my livelihood, that culture is dying. I’ve been at enough deathbeds to know the signs and the symptoms.

The challenge I give to the people who come to study with me in my school, if the cutlure is dying, then what is asked of you? What if it’s your mom, or your dad? What do you do? Do you get as far away as possible so that you don’t get close to it? No, that doesn’t save you from anything. It just keeps you dumber longer.

So what’s asked of you is to approach it. You’re terrified, you’re totally distraught, and yet you have to approach the deathbed. Our job is to be a faithful witness to what’s happening. So first order of business is don’t turn your head and don’t blink because someday someone much younger than you is going to need to know what it looked like in the early days when it started to turn real bad and it was irreversible.


Our job is to be useful while the one close to us is dying. You can’ tbe useful by keeping a ten-foot pole from you at all times and saying as far away from it as you can. You gotta learn her death. And it doesn’t require you to die or to go down, so to speak. But you’re certainly going to know much more than you wish you did. But it’s learning things that you never wanted to learn anything about.

Most people want to disown our culture, sneer at it, but it’s deeply cowardly.

What kind of a person am I to take evrything I can take from the cutlre b ut as soon as it goes down I’m the first rat off the boat. So those among us who plan to be human while the culure is dying, our job is to be a close to the death as possible. So someday we can bear feaithful witness to it, maybe the story has cautionary wisdom for a gneration not even born yet.

That’s the sequence we have to rely upon.


Mother dying stage 4 lung cancer had 6 weeks, rom griefwalker

14 and 17 y.o. Enormous sorrow

What that can do to anybody in the family is to grow the toughest, thickest skin they could possibly have, so nobody talks about things except maybe the weather, bc to do anything more is topen up another world

You dying is not the endo fyou being a mother. The way you die is how you mother these kids.Process as if the memories these kids are going to have is being written by you now. And then ask a lot of your kids. Don’t let them run away now. Inisist that they come and spend time with you every day and look at you and see the changes in you and see the shortness in breath and so on. It will seem so cruel to the culture at large b ut what you are doing is giving them a gift. It’s not a gifr tthey want right now, b ut someday that is exactly what it will be. Because you saw to it that they even knew your death.

You’re going to have some skill at being a human being. Andbeing human together with other people. That’s where it comes from. It doesn’t come from things going great. Or taking out an insurance policy.


If you go back 140 some years ago, the very vignette -- everything’s getting worse, at what point do you move on -- this very thing was happening in ireland, the irish potato famine.



The truth of the matter is … dying of the cutlure is not going to bring to the surface any particular wisdom in anybody. That’s not a given. So we have to think about hit otehrwise. What could bring those qualities to the surface for more of us. It’s one thing that is wretchedly missing: you had a birthright that was never delivered to you. It wasn’t that you get to live as long as you want. That’s not your birthright. It’s not that you -- unsullied by human presence. Not that. At a certain point, you deserved, right around puberty, is that ,i’m going to use the world “elders” now is that people who were older than you would have approached you pulled you from your mother’s clutches, and i’m talking about the process of being initiated into something. And that’s your birthright. The reason i mention this in response to what you ased me, is, if you had had that opportunity, it ends your childhood, it kills your childhood and gives you a chance to be a human being. But without that rewriting we have almost no choice but to bring the lessons of childhood the really sketchy and questionable wisdom of childhood, that’s what we bring into our teens and 20s and 30s and 40s and 50s which means that i am dealing with 50 year d adolescents quite a lot.

Culture is dying and we have all kinds of people who are bringing expectations that come from their childhood to this enormous time in our cultural life, and they’re saying “what’s going to happen tme? What’s going to happen to my stuff? What’s going to happen to my future?

That’s where those Yeah but’s are coming from. Chlldness knows no limits. This is not fiar that the culture is dying. The second chance, That’s their birthright

Imagine that there’s a reason why and imagine that part of the reason why is not to punish you not to rip you off from the golden age of whenever this golden age might have been. You were born to come into this time when our culture is in its roughest state.

Imagine if we started to proceed as if we were needed, instead of as if we were NEEDY.

Have i been born into this …

If your mom’s dying your job is not to make sure she doesnt’ die. It’s what? To make sure that she dies WELL..

“Earth is everything that died before you”

You have to plant that seed in the decomposed decayed remnants of the culture that gave you life. Turns out that everything that dies



Adults don’t curse what died simply because it didn’t last. They say We will plant something new in what did not last But it has to start in the poverty of what’s passing away.




Her aging is your phd in being alive. Obviously you’ve got to keep going to school. And id on’t mean you have to live withyour granmother but yo uhave to really learn the diminishment of age so that when that comes to you

Because they can’t do what they did when they were 40

I think we’ve got to reserve the world elders

Being elders doesnt’ happen when you get old and crotchety and start pissing yourself

It has to come from some kind of willingness

The ability to see things that only hurt, this iw hat you do as a way of learning how to be an elder

Elderhood is something y’uve got to learn i promise you it doesn’t just happen


Fewer and fewer senior citizens and more elders

The whole point of being an elder is to realize that the younger people around you whether they know it or not they need you amongst them

You may have to wait until your dying hour for one of them to approach you and ask what was tk and tk and tk like

You’ve got to live the last third of your life waiting for that day to come

Most of us are not going to change our lives enough to have creaky old dad in the house