Tag Archives: legacy

“Into the Night: Portraits of Life and Death” a fascinating documentary

Leave it to me to find the heartbreaking, gut-wrenching yet powerful documentaries. While films about dying are always an emotional experience for me, I also find them thought-provoking, which is why I keep watching them and sharing with others.

The latest film I watched is titled, “Into the Night: Portraits of Life and Death.” It aired on PBS earlier this year, but I caught it on Netflix. What I liked most about the film was the diverse range of subjects who were interviewed about their perspectives on death. From people of faith to scientists to a former member of an Islamic extremist group, those interviewed were candid about their thoughts on the meaning of life, death and the afterlife.

I loved the imagery captured in the film, such as a son finding an acorn in the pants pocket of his recently deceased father, or a favorite family photograph of a parent and child on the shore of the beach. There was also an interesting discussion of near-death experiences.

One of my favorite death positive advocates, Caitlin Doughty, is also interviewed for the film. A traumatic brush with death as a young child greatly influenced her life.

The most moving segments were with those who were actively dying. Anyone who has spent time with a dying person knows they often offer an insightful take on their imminent demise. Some people fight death until the very end, but others make their peace with death in order to better appreciate the time they have left.

The overall message I took away from the film is that each of our lives are unique stories, and all stories must come to an end eventually.

Watching such a film made me reflect upon my own views of death, as well as those of my parents. My father, a staunch Catholic, had an intense fear of death. Did his dementia offset that fear, or intensify it? There is no way for me to know. My mother, on the other hand, had a more positive end of life view. She thought we “go to a good place, and a right place,” based upon whatever our views are of the afterlife.

For me, I’m more afraid of terminal disease and the dying process than death itself. I dread the idea of pain, misery and loss of self-control. I also dread the loss of mental faculties, but know that is a distinct possibility, as Alzheimer’s is all over my family tree. I admire those that make peace with death, as I think it is the best way to go. At some point, the fight to live is over, but I don’t see that as giving up. I see that as focusing remaining energy on the life you have left.

If you’ve seen the documentary, I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Filed under Awareness & Activism

Life in a box

I found out today that a former co-worker of mine has died. I had no idea he was ill, as I did not keep up with him after he left the company we worked together at. What I do remember of him was his white shock of hair, a warm smile and an easygoing spirit. Apparently some of his friends were having a life legacy box created for him. An organization has members who are woodworkers donate their time to create beautiful wooden boxes, which can be personalized. They can then be filled with mementos, letters, photos, etc. to honor one’s life. These boxes are delivered to those in hospice. The box is passed on to family members once the person passes. I think it is a beautiful concept.

It made me think about how Alzheimer’s, and I’m sure many other diseases, can overshadow one’s legacy. Years of decline, both physically and mentally, can strip away so much of what makes a person unique. What’s left behind is this shell of a person, who often seems numb and distorted from suffering and the medications designed to ease the suffering. But to allow those final images to dominate our memories allows the disease to win.

I thought about what I would put in a box for Dad. Definitely something green, probably a symbol of a shamrock to represent his birthplace. Maybe some rosary beads since he was Catholic. A picture of my parents when they were dating. A picture of Dad holding me as a baby. I would include a photo of the Titanic, because he loved to study the history of that ship. I’d probably put a cigarette in there, because so many of my memories of Dad include him smoking. (My mom still hasn’t thrown away the last pack of cigarettes that Dad had at home.) Can’t put a pint of beer in a box but maybe a Guinness coaster or ad, since that was one of his favorite brands. Maybe a tiny bottle of Old Brut, the cologne he wore the most. I’d throw in a Bing Crosby CD.

It’s kind of funny how my memories of Dad are a distinct mixture of virtue and vice.

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Filed under Memories