Parting Ways: New Rituals and Celebrations of Life's Passing

Parting Ways: New Rituals and Celebrations of Life's Passing

Parting Ways: New Rituals and Celebrations of Life's Passing

Parting Ways: New Rituals and Celebrations of Life's Passing

Synopsis

Parting Ways explores the emergence of new end-of-life rituals in America that celebrate the dying and reinvent the roles of family and community at the deathbed. Denise Carson contrasts her father's passing in the 1980s, governed by the structures of institutionalized death, with her mother's death some two decades later. Carson's moving account of her mother's dying at home vividly portrays a ceremonial farewell known as a living wake, showing how it closed the gap between social and biological death while opening the door for family and friends to reminisce with her mother. Carson also investigates a variety of solutions--living funerals, oral ethical wills, and home funerals--that revise the impending death scenario. Integrating the profoundly personal with the objectively historical, Parting Ways calls for an "end of life revolution" to change the way of death in America.

Excerpt

I opened our front door to welcome a procession of family and friends to my mother’s wake on a brilliant winter afternoon in February 2002. Her last wish was to die at home in San Dimas, our quiet suburban oasis near Los Angeles. The doctors predicted she had seven days or less to live following her choice to end intravenous feeding. That decision came as a surprise to me on the evening of our homecoming from a demoralizing stay in the hospital.

And so the countdown began on a Monday.

Tuesday, Day Two, hospice arrived.

It was Day Three when my mother, known to everyone else as Linda Carson, lay wide awake for her wake. She basked in the spotlight on a bed surrounded by not mourners, but revelers as the ambiance in our home turned from quiet pain to a quickening pulse of celebration. Friends regaled her with stories of old. Her laughter, rising in cadence, egged them on. I’d never felt so proud of her than at that moment. She radiated a picture of dignity and grace in motion.

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