articles & podcasts of interest
On Death Cafes - In "High Country News" - by Laura Pritchett
My father's recent death was not beautiful, and neither were any of the other deaths I've witnessed of late. This has left me wondering about a better path. Death is not easy, to be sure, but these were made particularly painful by medical interventions — or perhaps I witnessed the confusion between saving a life and prolonging the process of dying. . .
So I threw a party. Or rather, I held my first Death Café, and it turned out to be a lively, invigorating affair.
In Europe, there's a tradition of gathering to discuss important subjects — a café philo, for a philosophical café, or café scientifique, a scientific café, and now there are café mortel, or death cafés. A death café isn't an actual place; it's a temporary event in various locations, such as my home, complete with decorations and a cake with DEATH: THE FINAL FRONTIER scrawled on top. . . . Read more here
Thoughts on the End of the World - an essay by Laura Pritchett and Ana Maria Spagna in "High Country News"
What would you do if you knew the world was ending, and you had 24 hours to live? I put that question recently to Ana Maria Spagna, friend and fellow writer, with a blush — it seems like a drinking-game question, after all, nearly trite in its grandness. But I meant it, because it seems to have burbled suddenly into my zeitgeist — tropical storms and earthquakes and raging wildfires as regular news, methane burps and Yellowstone rumbles as potential threats, and my major childhood fear of imminent death from Russian nuclear weapons now revived from North Korea. “Oh,” she said, gazing out at the waters of Puget Sound from the cabin where we were staying on Whidbey Island. “Well. …” Read the rest here
Listen to the podcast on Books in 30 here.
C. G. Cooper: Welcome to Books in 30 with me, C.G. Cooper. Here at Books in 30, we discuss great books with some of today's top authors. So welcome to our listeners, and a big Books in 30 welcome to today's guest, Laura Pritchett. Laura Pritchett is the author of nine books. She began a writing journey in her early 20s with a short story collection, Hell's Bottom, Colorado, which one the PEN USA award for fiction and Milkweed National Fiction prize. This was followed by a bunch of novels, I won't read all of them right now, she's an editor of anthologies, she also has two nonfiction books. She's published hundreds of essays and her work has appeared in the New York Times, O magazine, Salon, and Publishers Weekly, just to name a few. You could find her at LauraPritchett.com. Laura, welcome and thanks for joining us today.
My father's death - in "Tin House"
In my father’s truck was this: an extra pipe, orange bailing twine, a bottle of Gink (“World’s Best Dry Fly Dressing”), a black film canister full of fishing flies (bought for a buck each from his barber), Dr. Grabow pipe filters, an “Emeritus” parking permit for the university, a Stetson cowboy hat size 59-7 3/8, a bottle of mouthwash, and dust and bits of hay and a few ear tags for the cattle.
This was twelve years ago and it is exactly the last memory of him I have before the Alzheimer’s. The last moment I had with the Regular Him. Read more here
The Best Movies, Music, and Books about Death (from the book's complete list)
Part of the book includes lists --- I’m a fan of lists! – and some of the lists are about Capital-A Art surrounding death. Here’s a sampling of the list of movies . . . .These movies explore death. They offer something new about the processing of death, fears, corpses, afterlife, the mucky real stuff, and they’re the Good Movies . . .
Harold and Maude – Anytime I mentioned a list of death movies, someone was sure to mention, “You’ve got Harold and Maude, right?” Of course. Yes. Here it is, up top. Because this movie is about life (“Give me an L, give me an I, give me a V, give me an E. Otherwise, you got nothing to talk about in the locker room!”)
Departures - In need of a job, our young main character answers a vague ad that has him preparing corpses for burial—not what he planned on doing with his life . . .
The Sea Inside – Rendered quadriplegic by a diving accident, the main character launches a 28- year-campaign for euthanasia and his right to die.
Defending your Life – After those serious flicks, we thought it might be time for a laugh. This movie takes place at a weigh-station of sorts, a stopover for the recently deceased.
And here are some of our favorite songs that bring comfort
Let the Mystery Be (Iris Dement). This might be my first choice for comfort, because, yes, it allows me to just let the mystery be.
Do You Realize? (The Flaming Lips) - Probably the only song about mortality to ever be declared an Official State Song!
Sing Me to the Other Side (Steve Conn) – May we all have someone to sing us to the other side.
Death in fiction in "Writer's Digest" by Laura Pritchett
The greatest truth about the greatest writing, if you ask me, is this: The author never, ever averts her eyes. Easier said than done, of course, and I’ve not always lived up to my own dictum – for the sake of avoiding collateral damage, I’ve let my gaze waver; or, worse, I have averted my gaze completely and fallen silent. Still, my greatest goal as both writer and human? A refining of my sense of truthfulness, a blooming of bravery, a keeping of clear-eyed gaze even on issues that churn the heart and crush the spirit.
This was on my mind lately as I killed my father. Or imagined him dead. Or thought of the various ways he’d go, and what his particular death would feel like for him. My newest novel, Stars Go Blue, is based, in part, on my family’s experience with my father’s Alzheimer’s. There came a day, about ten years ago, when my father stood in front of the elevator with me in Denver – we were helping one of my brothers move — and my dad had no idea what the elevator was for; he wouldn’t step into it. I tilted my head, confused: Perhaps he’d been out of the city for too long, being a Colorado rancher and all? But no, he had also been a college professor, a geneticist, a world-traveler famous for his research.
Oh, god, I thought. Soon after, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. . . . Read more here
On Chronic Pain, on the podcast "Pain Refraimed"
Renowned author Laura Pritchett joins us here on Pain Reframed! Laura is the author of multiple books, including “Stars Go Blue,” “Red Lightning,” “Sky Bridge,” and just recently, “The Blue Hour.” She’s also working on her upcoming book, “The Death Book.” Laura is the first of many guests who will be talking, not from the clinician's perspective, but from the perspective of those who have experienced very serious pain conditions.
Laura shares her journey with physical pain and how she’s learned how to manage that pain through specific and effective thought processes. She, not only discusses the tough times when dealing with the pain, but also what was going through her head and how she was able to combat those thoughts to reduce, or even eliminate, Episode 3 at: http://www.ispinstitute.com/pain-reframed-podcast/ or at https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/pain-reframed-physical-therapy-pain-management/id1223789711
A favorite blog post on the many benefits of reading . . . with thanks to Jane Sandwood
The Many Benefits of Reading - Including Preparation for Death
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go” - Dr. Seuss
When you first receive a bad diagnosis, the sense of isolation can be overwhelming. Suddenly, all the things you love can suddenly seem alien, as though they have never been yours. It takes much reflection until we become ready to ‘make friends with death’ and say goodbye to the people and things we love, when and how we wish to. Reading is one way to understand our common humanity; to realize that we are united with others, in our happiness and suffering - for life is fleeting for as all. Reading can bring us many benefits in every stage of life, as well as in the months, weeks or days leading to death.
Reading in our Childhood
One of the best things about being widely read, is the ability to rely on the exact words and phrases we need to get our message across. New research published at the 2017 Pediatric American Societies Meeting showed that reading books with children in their early years, can boost their vocabulary and reading skills up to four years later. Reading is indeed a cyclical pursuit; the more you read, the more reading continues to interest you; the love of words leads to adeptness at expression, and vice-versa. Other research has found that exposure to new vocabulary increases scores on general tests of intelligence; strong early reading skills may also indicate intelligence in later life.
Reading in our Teens
One of the few studies carried out on the effects of adolescent reading, has shown that this is the only extra-curricular activity for 16-year-olds that is linked to having a managerial or professional job later in life. The study, carried out at the University of Oxford, showed that neither sports, socializing, visiting museums or going to concerts, had a significant effect on later careers.
Reading in Adulthood
Research undertaken at The University of Stavanger has found that people with poor reading skills are less likely to be healthy. "Some people don't seem to obtain necessary health information because they're not good readers," said researcher and associate professor, Kjersti Lundetræ. Literacy had a stronger link to good health, than gender, age, education, and income. Researchers believe that those who cannot read miss out on important health advice - contained in leaflets, brochures, etc. They concluded that a general improvement in reading skills might afford people better health. Everyone can benefit from reading, though seniors in particular should set aside time to read books regularly, since it helps boost memory and delay cognitive decline.
Reading in Our Final Years
Whether we are young or old, reading can help us discover the philosophies or belief we need to get us through what can be a confusing and, sometimes, lonely time. Research undertaken at Sussex University showed that reading reduces stress by as much as 68 percent; it can also help us get a better night’s sleep. Finally, reading increases our empathy, helping us to understand what those we love are going through as they struggle to come to terms or even envision a life without us.
Reading has powerful benefits for people of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds. It can relax us and sharpen our mental abilities, but also provide us with a source of powerful ideas that can help us make an inevitable transition - that which takes us from life to death.
Some other articles and essays by Laura . . .
"The Middle Ages: Sex Scenes of the Middle Aged in Literature,” Bloom, Feb 7, 2017 https://bloom-site.com/2017/02/07/the-middle-ages/
“Breathing Again,” High Country News, Writers on Range, Feb 1, 2017http://www.hcn.org/articles/breathing-again-after-an-unexpected-election
"No Sound, No Fury" -- Modern Love, NYT - https://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/22/fashion/marriage-breakups-separation.html?smid=fb-share&_r=2
“The Great West Has More than One Story to Tell,” Literary Hub, Feb 2, 2017 http://lithub.com/the-great-west-has-more-than-one-story-to-tell/
“A Writer's Tip for Writing Better Sex Scenes,” Publisher’s Weekly, January 2017 http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/columns-and-blogs/soapbox/article/72439-a-writer-s-tip-for-writing-better-sex-scenes-steal.html
“Fracking: OnEarth” http://www.salon.com/2013/09/25/colorado_flooded_with_fracking_fluid_partner/
“When the Fires Came for Us,” Salon, July:http://www.salon.com/2012/07/26/when_the_fires_came_for_us/
“An Ode to gardens and dirt,” High Country News, November 2015 http://www.hcn.org/issues/47.19/an-ode-to-germs-guts-and-gardens
“Caregiving: I’ll do it my way,” O Magazine, November 2014, package winner of the ASME Award http://www.oprah.com/spirit/How-to-Care-for-Elderly-Parents- Elder-Care
“The Best Mango in the World,” https://www.hcn.org/articles/the-best-mango-in-the-world Writers on Range, High Country News, July 2015
“When the Fires Came for Us,” Salon, July, 2012. http://www.salon.com/2012/07/26/when_the_fires_came_for_us/
Selected talks and interviews
The Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1EPURryVIDo
Adams State Featured Speaker: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v-tKbfTKtA4
Jaipur Literary Festival, 2016: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tVlSypumzMU
Jaipur Literary Festival, 2015: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTcbN7NEFyQ
Stars Go Blue Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XPPXGRRlTqM