Tag: Death

Plastered Skulls: What can a 10,000 year old tradition teach us about coping with death?

Teaching about Death and Burial “Design your own burial” is an activity on my course syllabus. No matter how many times students see it on their handout and on the lecture screen, it takes them a minute to comprehend these words. Watching my twenty-something-year-old students think about their own mortality, their own death— sometimes for… Read more →

Straightened Up and Dying Right? Queering Puritan Deathbeds

When I was ten, I was present at a close family friend’s deathbed, an experience that sparked my lifelong curiosity about what happens when a person moves from this life into whatever might or might not exist beyond it. Hence my interest in the Puritans. Few folks have expended more time and effort trying to… Read more →

Dying Like the Savior, Dying Like the Saved

Sister Alberta Marie Hanley felt like Christ on her deathbed. Blood seeping into her eyes from a low platelet count, the twenty-six-year-old told Sister Mary Mercy that her head felt tight, like the crown of thorns must have made Jesus’ head feel. Hanley took her last moments to wonder if she had done enough for… Read more →

Heart Transplantation, Democracy, and Collective Forgetting in Contemporary Spain

Throughout my life, Spain – the country where I was born and raised – has been the global leader in organ donation and transplantation, a horn we toot frequently and proudly. We hear about this every time new data on organ donation becomes available, every time someone wants to make an argument about the goodness… Read more →

Weaving Wool into Death: Burial in 17th-Century England

The rituals we use to honor someone in death often reflect the way that they lived, from their religion to their favorite color. People have strong preferences for what will happen to their body after they die and what kind of funeral they want. Twenty-four percent of UK adults have already chosen which songs they… Read more →

What to Expect When You’re Expiring: Pregnancy and Death in Seventeenth-Century England

On October 12, 1622, a 26-year-old English woman named Elizabeth Jocelin gave birth to her first child, a baby girl. Nine days later, she died of puerperal fever, an infection of the genital tract — most likely from bacteria accidentally introduced by a birthing attendant during labor — that can cause fatal sepsis in postpartum… Read more →

Why We Need to Talk About Death Right Now

I can hear some of you say, “Can’t we talk about something more pleasant?” That’s the same question American cartoonist Roz Chast’s parents asked her when she wanted to talk to them about their deaths. Her title represents the general attitude towards death in American society today. Even in the midst of a global pandemic,… Read more →

The Deathbed: A New Nursing Clio Series

This past fall, when we began work on a Nursing Clio series about death, we never imagined the world would look the way it does today. Early reports of illness in China were limited and, as they often are, written in the confident language of exceptionalism: epidemics happen over there, to other people, in other… Read more →

Ordinary Death in a Pandemic

On Tuesday, March 17, 2020, shortly after noon, my mother, Carol Lenoir Price Swedberg, died in home hospice at the age of 90. I had arrived to be by her side three days earlier despite the fact that COVID-19 had already started to disrupt travel and other aspects of our daily lives. Mom died an… Read more →

Waiting for a Death Revolution: A Review of HBO’s Alternate Endings: Six New Ways to Die in America

I can’t decide what to do with my corpse. Embalming, the bread-and-butter of the American funeral industry, feels wrong. Is cremation a better option for me? Do I want a funeral service where everyone can cry (or celebrate) my departure? Or is it better to just let things go quietly, no ritual required? The fact… Read more →