death. week 6.

date. 2022

city. new york city​

Image by Annie Spratt

March 20

Watched a Netflix documentary today called End Game. It shows what some patients and their families go through as they approach the end of life.

It was moving, but also very simple and down to earth. 

At one point, a hospice caregiver said that one of their guiding principles is that they never turn away from the pain or illness. On the contrary, they help their patients spend their final days and weeks trying to draw as close as possible to their experience, in the belief that this is life’s most rewarding invitation.

I think this was the exact intuition that drew me to studying death in the first place. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life fearing death. I want to find a way to welcome or maybe even celebrate it.

But as the documentary introduced me to patient after patient, I found myself turning cold. I don’t want to see all of these cancer patients. Heart disease and cancer are by far the deadliest diseases in the US, and I know that I (for genetic and lifestyle reasons) am far more prone to the latter. I assume I will die from cancer.

I’m afraid to look my own death in the face. I am afraid of my own mortality. In some sense, I’m afraid of myself.

My hope is that as I continue with this project, I’ll begin to spend more and more time experiencing and appreciating my own mortality as well as that of my loved ones, neighbors, the rest of humanity, and all living beings.

I hope to grow less fearful. Not because fear is shameful. But because fear is always a missed opportunity for love. And I truly wish to be a lover.

Nurse: And in terms of the quality of that life, what’s most important to you for as many days, weeks, months that you may have left?

Patient: Just take each day at a time. Just take each day at a time. Every moment is still a gift. You’re still here. And that in itself is a gift.