Death’s Tug of War with Mystery and Science

Death grabbed my pen several decades ago when I was finishing a sentence that I had written a couple of hundred times before, “PLAN creates good lives for people with disabilities.” To my surprise the pen continued, “and good deaths for their parents.”

Which at the time was a truth we hadn’t acknowledged and were reluctant to discuss.

I’ve learned a great deal about a good death since then. Including the importance of talking about it. 

One of the things I’ve learned is that there are too few conversations about death in our culture. The closest to a Canada wide discussion are the polarized debates around the legislation and regulations related to Medical Aid in Dying (MAiD.) Which isn’t the best way to address what we all want in our various ways, a good death.

The magazine Policy Options has just published a piece of mine entitled, “A meditation on medical assistance in dying.” It is my baby-step attempt to move beyond the pro-con discussion. My hope is to eventually wade into the cultural waters around death. And to stay afloat amongst conflicting beliefs, fears, understandings, myths and values in order that I might understand them better. I don’t wish to do this alone. Do let me know if you are interested in joining me.

Here is the opening paragraph of the Policy Options piece:

I consider myself lucky to have been born when death was still pretty much a mystery, more the prerogative of poets and other artists, philosophers and religious teachers than of scientists and doctors. I grew up surrounded by death. I served as an altar boy at dozens of funerals and attended the “wake” of my maternal grandmother in her parlour. I experienced my mother’s death at her home in her bed, together with her other children and several of her grandchildren. Death may not have been welcomed, but it was not a stranger to me.

You can read the rest by clicking here.


Life is full of dying; life is full of death. When the reality of death strikes, it may strike with a “roar of awakening,” an awakening that reminds us of our physical limitations, of the value of our relationships and of the depth of our spirit. We may regret that much time has passed and yet be thankful that we have a new beginning, an awareness that while we are in the shadow of death, a new life has begun. ~ David Kuhl, author Facing Death, Embracing Life

Musical selection this post is Real Death by Mount Eerie (Phil Elverum) from his remarkable album, A Crow Looked at Me. It was written in memory of his wife Geneviève Castrée who died of pancreatic cancer shortly after the birth of her and Elverum’s daughter. Support his music.


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Visit to browse Canada’s largest collection of quotes about social change, curated by Al Etmanski.

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