Ars Bene Moriendi: Web Resources for Dying Well

By McDermott, Irene E. | Searcher, May 2004 | Go to article overview

Ars Bene Moriendi: Web Resources for Dying Well


McDermott, Irene E., Searcher


We Americans are particularly prone to this notion that we call control death. As someone once said, "Americans don't die; they underachieve."

--Virginia Morris, Talking About Death Won't Kill You

Busy modern information professionals don't like to think about death. Heck, we hate it when our computers run slow. Death would put a serious kink in our schedules.

Most of us have never witnessed a death. Yet, everyone does die, these days mostly in hospitals. Still, have you ever seen a body in a hospital? Usually, as soon as the patients breathe their last, they are whisked down the hall in special gurneys with false bottoms and smuggled out the back door to unmarked hearses. No dead guys here! It's bad for morale--and profits. No wonder we have come to expect that medicine has a miracle for everyone.

Our faith in medicine has extended so far that when people die young, we may be tempted to feel as if they were doing it on purpose. How dare they interrupt our equilibrium with their untimely demise? It is so upsetting and in such shockingly bad taste. Secretly, we wonder what they did to bring it on: Smoke? Drink too much? Neglect to exercise?

We often get uncomfortable in the presence of the elderly because they remind us of death. My Aunt Emy is 93 and has been bedridden for 3 years. She complains that she is were T of staring at the same curtains and counting the holes in the acoustical tile ceiling. She points out that all her friends have died and insists that she is ready to go, too. Yet she doesn't, mostly because she receives excellent care from her baby sister, Aunt Bert, 80 years old.

When Aunt Emy talks about her death, I feel awkward, like a Victorian schoolgirl listening to a lecture about the birds and the bees. I don't know what to say. I look at the wall. I make lame jokes. Ha ha. By discussing what is on her mind and what is inevitable for all of us, Aunt Emy violates a societal taboo.

Death has become so foreign to most Americans that it almost seems like we should, with skill and good luck, be able to beat it somehow. Rationally, we know this is not true. Still, to our emotional selves, death, in even very old age, seems tragic, an unfair punishment rather than the important, natural life event that it is.

Many of us in middle age now face the deaths of our parents and others of their generation. Even some of our siblings and colleagues may be suffering from serious illness. Chances are good that we will eventually provide care for a loved one at the end of his or her life and/or be the one in the hospital bed in the living room.

At least that is the way we hope we can end: peacefully and comfortably, in the company of people who love us. This way of leaving the world has been referred to as a "good death." But our modern medical system is geared toward keeping patients alive at any cost. Extraordinary medical procedures can cause pain and panic in the dying and cut them off from their last human contact.

To learn ars bene moriendi, the art of "dying well," we need to talk about death and plan for it. That way, when the time comes, k'ain ayin hara (the Yiddish incantation against the evil eye), we will know what to do, what to ask for, what options we have. The Web is a great place to learn about those end-of-life choices.

On Our Own Terms: Moyers on Dying

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/onourownterms/

In 2000, Bill Moyers and WNET in New York produced a series that examined the way in which Americans usually die--in the hospital and alone--and contrasted that with their wishes. The Web site offers articles and links to high-quality resources for people who are dying and those caring for them, including financial advice, eldercare locators, and information about pain management. This is an excellent place to begin to plan for the end.

Directories and Portals

Start with the big sites for lists of links about dying.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Ars Bene Moriendi: Web Resources for Dying Well
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.