When I was younger I was raised on a steady diet of rock and pop music. The Beatles, The Stones and Bowie were a regular sound track. An early and important experience of the significance of death for me was my father talking about the death of John Lennon. He spoke about it with the same hollow awe that I have heard people use in talking about JFK or Princess Di. These events and other deaths like them were for many moments of cultural punctuation. Events that changed people’s lives and their worlds.
Death and dying is all around us. Yet, we can be distanced from these realities due to the anxiety that death provokes and our society’s approach to dealing with it. Our relationship with the deaths of those closest to us can be limited by their being hidden away as a clinical activity within our hospitals and aged care facilities. By contrast the deaths of public figures have never been more visible and scrutinised. Social Media and the constant news cycle mean that we are always in the loop. Our uneasy fascination is privileged with contact and information.
The recent death of comedian Joan Rivers has brought end-of-life issues to the forefront. Kübler-Ross collaborator David Kessler wrote a piece in the Huffington Post on “Melissa Rivers’ Courageous Decision” to take her mother “off life support”. He gives advice to families going through the same decision-making process. Joan Rivers’ funeral plans, which she wrote about in a 2012 book, have also been getting wide coverage in the mainstream media. (Huffington Post, USA Today, news.com.au)