I now know: when I die, I want to be buried naturally. I want my body to be wrapped in a shroud and placed in the earth, without the physical and financial burdens of embalming or cremation. But thinking about my own mortality has not always been easy for me: as a child, I kept myself awake at night with my fears about death. I decided to take control of this fear, and started educating myself on death: I wrote a paper on the economics of Ghanaian funeral rituals, I filmed a documentary with my father in a cemetery, and I started watching Caitlin Doughty's ‘Ask a [...]
It’s only an estimate, but I’ve done the math. My father died while I was in a run-down hotel lobby in Newburgh, NY, picking up my race number for a half marathon that would begin in just under an hour.
Dad, at 62, was still an impressively healthy athlete. He swam a mile a day, rode his bike twice daily and played volleyball every weekend. One of the big regrets of his life was that he could not persuade me to take an interest in the game, despite the fact that I “had the shoulders for it.” That Saturday morning last June, while I was driving north from New York [...]
I’ve spoken to very few people about what it was like to be in a room watching my mother take her last gulps of air. It was dinnertime, dark. We’d just had pizza. We’d been taking turns sitting by her side when there was a change in her breathing. All the oxygen drained from the room. When my mother died, it was just my family in a semicircle, alone together with what moments ago had been “her,” but in the span of seconds had become “her body.” She was 63.
Zadie Smith on Love, Death: "I was in mourning and it was winter, and the city was all stone and diagonal rain to me"
At the New York Review of Books, Zadie Smith has a beautiful essay up about two trips to Italy, the first taken with her father:
It is not easy for a white man of almost seventy and a black girl of seventeen to go on a mini-break to Europe together; the smirks of strangers follow you everywhere. We did not like to linger in restaurants or in the breakfast room of our tiny hotel. Instead, on that first, exploratory trip, we found our pleasure in walking. Through the streets, through museums—but more than anywhere else, through gardens. No money has to be spent in a [...]
Three weeks after my partner Randy died of metastatic cancer, I called the oncology resident who had been his on-call doctor. I remember exactly how long it took me to make that call because I was in a place of noticing how long things took, with mild interest, like: when will I feel hungry? When will the best part of every day stop being when I’m asleep?
It took me three weeks to work up to hearing Randy’s doctor’s voice on the phone and simultaneously make words in English.There was something I wanted to ask her or, more accurately, something I wanted to make her say.
“If you’d known how [...]
Zadie Smith: "If I truly believed that being a corpse was my only guaranteed future, I'd get rid of my iPhone"
Zadie Smith's done it again: her latest New York Review of Books essay, "Man vs. Corpse," is a gentle, vivid meditation on the impossibility of imagining yourself dead.
Walking corpses—zombies—follow us everywhere, through novels, television, cinema. Back in the real world, ordinary citizens turn survivalist, ready to scale a mountain of corpses if it means enduring. Either way, death is what happens to everyone else. By contrast, the future in which I am dead is not a future at all. It has no reality. If it did—if I truly believed that being a corpse was not only a possible future but my only guaranteed future—I’d do all kinds of [...]
Dearly beloved, you are gathered here today to divvy up my stuff. To cry (possibly), to laugh (hopefully), and to respect my last wish: that I be buried in a seapunk coffin engraved with the words "only god can judge me, lol."
While I am, for the most part, happy to let you take my funeral in whatever direction you choose (as a starting point, consider: group dance), I have a few conditions in addition to the standard business of my will that I hope you will (ha ha) (bit of clerical humor for you there) respect. To that end:
Transcript after the jump.
“The face alone has launched a thousand think pieces. So now the question is not one of basic selfie-justification, but rather, why must a photo of my face be justified when a photo of my bookshelf is not?” –Sarah Nicole Prickett
I went to a Catholic parochial school. This means the things you expect it to mean. There was a crucifix in every room: a wall-length stone-cut crucifix in the entryway; in the gymnasium, high up, a crucifix that was enormous, but not quite to scale.
At my school, grades 7 through 12 dedicate a class to a [...]