Category Archives: Death

Ash Wednesday: You’re Gonna Die

I’m writing this a few days before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent in the Christian calendar. Most Ash Wednesday services give participants the opportunity to have ashes–a symbol of mortality–rubbed on their foreheads. The presiding minister says something like “Remember … Continue reading

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Are Elderly Parents an Emotional Weight for Their Children?

I recently wrote about medical ethicist Ezekiel Emanuel’s Atlantic article explaining why he doesn’t want to live past age 75. I left off without having discussed one of his contentions, that living a long time can have a negative impact on … Continue reading

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Hoping to Die at 75?

The October, 2014 Atlantic considers the prospect of average lifespans reaching 100—I wrote about that possibility here. In the same issue there is an article by Ezekiel Emmanuel titled “Why I Hope to Die at 75.” Emanuel indicates that his … Continue reading

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James A. Ritzema, RIP

You’re never ready. My dad had heart surgery 25 years ago, carotid artery surgery 13 years ago, and memory problems for about 10 years that eventually cascaded into severe dementia. Three months ago, he reached the point where he was … Continue reading

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A Middle-Aged Suicide

Andrew Solomon wrote recently about Robin Williams’ suicide. He mused about the unique features of this particular death: “In public appearances, he never showed the callous narcissism of many actors; his work relied on the interplay between riotous extroversion and nuanced … Continue reading

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Roger Ebert, “Life Itself,” and Change

I recently saw Life Itself, the documentary about Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert’s life. The most remarkable thing about this film wasn’t any of Ebert’s achievements but his willingness to be filmed as he was dying of cancer. His … Continue reading

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When Older Adults Think of the Dead

In a recent post about the unprocessed emotions that many older adults accumulate, I quoted a line by 93-year-old essayist Roger Angell to the effect that advanced age provides plenty of opportunities for bad news. Angell also describes his experiences with loss; in this post … Continue reading

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The Death of a Parent, Part 2

In a recent post I described an article by novelist Mark Slouka on the effect that his father’s death had on him. I provided a few quotes from the article, each followed by my reflections. Here are some more quotes, … Continue reading

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Memento Mori

During Ash Wednesday services, the priest or minister makes a cross of ashes on the participant’s forehead and says, “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.” We begin the Lenten journey, in other words, by memento mori (Latin … Continue reading

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The Death of a Parent

In January, the New Yorker website had an excellent (though rather long) article by novelist Mark Slouka on the effect that his father’s death had on him. He describes himself now as “orphaned at fifty-five, nobody’s son, trying to plot … Continue reading

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