I discovered this wonderful book last year and have been "chewing on" it ever since. I highly recommend this book on helping us "do death better," by Erica Brown, a leading religious Jewish scholar with a sense of humor and practicality, and a gift for storytelling.
In Happier Endings: A Meditation on Life and Death, Erica shares deeply personal stories and experiences, as well as people from all faith backgrounds who deal with death in conscious, enlightening ways. These include: a mother who arranged ahead of time to have her children sprinkle her ashes on her favorite ski slope, an ex-nun who helps people prepare to die, a group of Jewish women who ritually and carefully wash the bodies of the dead, and a family whose patriarch's ethical will is read by the rest of the family every year.
Although Brown is in the academic world, her book brings the subject of death down to earth. Erica begins her book with some very interesting statistics: "56 million people die every year. That comes out to 153,000 deaths a day, 107 deaths per minute." She shares out of a personal life in which "death was a constant shadow in my family's past, a shadow we saw but tried hard to ignore. (40 members of her family were killed in the gas chambers of Auschwitz and random shootings during WWII.) The fear of (death) was intense, and over time it jelled into an even more intense stillness and silence." Then, her own beloved Zeide, her grandfather, died at age 95, "throwing (her) family into instant turmoil."
Brown also shares from her own powerful experience of working through her own cousin's sudden and mysterious death as she was called upon to help immediately afterward by her aunt and uncle. Then she opens up the discussion to a variety of topics, such as: the afterlife, suicide ("death as an escape"), the bucket list, how and what we can learn from grief, and "Using death to change your life." She shares from her particular Jewish perspective, but always with an openness to a more universal perspective.
Erica shares on her website the following, re her new book: Together we will go through an emotional journey to prepare for and accept death by drawing on the wisdom found in many spiritual traditions. The crucial step, I believe, is becoming comfortable discussing death—and not just in the abstract. This kind of honesty allows for important conversations, from financial wills to last words that reinforce to those we love most what matters most to us.
Here's what a good friend in Santa Fe had to say about Happier Endings: "I'm almost finished - she's so sensible - everyone should read her book. It puts a down to earth-ness about the subject." I'd also recommend this book as a wonderful tool that is allowing us to further open up the conversation - and our thinking - on death, grief, and the afterlife.
To our Health, Wealth, and Powerful Awakening, Dancing heart~~~~~