Tuesday, September 18, 2007

18th September
I've been away - at an academic conference in Bath called "The Social Context of Death, Dying and Disposal".
Or DDD8 to its friends.
We all laugh a bit uneasily when I tell my friends where I have been.
Yet I also add that this is one of the best academic conferences I have ever attended.
I came away having attended papers on:
  1. The inadequacy of current medical definitions of ‘brain death’ as the measure of the moment of dying
  2. Clothes for death: croatian women and the clothes they have prepared to die in
  3. Lifting the Lid: description of a ceremonial theatre event in Bristol connected with people’s grieving
  4. Death education in newcastle, Australia: the world cafe
  5. how nursing homes, in theur architecture and organisation, amplify disorientation and increase suffering of the last days
  6. ‘I must hire a lttle room to die in’ the dying experience of the Victorian poor
  7. the loneliness of the dying: their entering a place where empathy is difficult, maybe impossible
  8. biographical pain at the end of life
  9. sacred dying
  10. a holistic view of dying
  11. The provisions of mortuaries in London 1866-89
  12. near death experiences
  13. house shrines in the Netherlands
  14. Death of the people’s singer
  15. public memorials
  16. finding the right place for cremated remains
  17. place attachments for eternity: burial places in brazil france, and spain
  18. Our present cultural discomfort around death and bereavement
  19. Blogs as a means of communicating and overcoming grief....

..each of which in their own way utterly fascinating.

And what's more, all presented in an atmosphere of friendliness and mutual criticism and support.

There were none of the distortions of insecurity and vanity that are so familiar to me from other conferences.

It's as if they all, very powerfully, in their own way illustrated an idea that was actually central to the conference:

that we need to change our culture from one that denies death to one which accepts it,

because:

to learn how to handle death is also to learn how best to handle life.

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