AUTHOR’S NOTE: This post was written for and originally appeared in the March 2020 print edition of The Real MainStream. The online version was published May 20, 2020. What appears here is an abbreviated form of the full column. Please GO HERE to read the full article.
“Yes, death. Death must be so beautiful. To lie in the soft brown earth, with the grasses waving above one’s head, and listen to silence. To have no yesterday, and no to-morrow. To forget time, to forget life, to be at peace.”— Oscar Wilde, The Canterville Ghost, 1887
When Oscar Wilde wrote these words over 130 years ago, the Western world was in deep mourning.
Not because of any one particular loss, mind you. An overt obsession of many during the Victorian era (1837-1901) was death, dying, and mourning.
In Victorian life, death was everywhere: in the streets, the workplace, peoples’ homes. Families began planning for death long before it actually arrived. Many wedding dowries included women’s handmade funeral shrouds.
Deathcare was provided in the home by family and friends of the deceased. Often, death was the only time a person was photographed.
Attitudes toward death have changed a bit since then.
Our loved ones don’t die, and they aren’t dead. Instead they are deceased. They have passed away, passed on, departed, are resting in peace or at eternal rest, are lost; or have succumbed, didn’t make it, or are in a better place. Or (worst of all, in my opinion) they have “lost their battle,” as though life is a war to be won. We devote more time inventing words and phrases that dance around the very idea of death than we do thinking honestly and rationally about our own mortality.– Dawn Frary, The Real MainStream
I engage with death on a regular basis, as a death doula, crematory operator, wildlife educator specializing in birds of prey, and unabashed taphophile. Death is as much a part of my life as, well, living.
Let us explore the landscape of death and dying together with honesty, humor, reverence, and love.
“You can help me. You can open for me the portals of death’s house, for love is always with you, and love is stronger than death is.”Oscar Wilde, The Canterville Ghost, 1887
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