I had the opportunity to hear Stephen Jenkinson speak a few months back. Often viewed as controversial for his historical, cultural, and forward views on our death-phobic culture.
He advocates for a greater personal awareness that we are going to die, saying, “People die in the matter of their living” and “If your beliefs avoid dying and death, you will have a disconnect when you ARE dying.”
His experience working with numerous families, as the program director in a palliative care program gave him a direct view into our society’s avoidance of the reality of death.
He is a bold thinker. I find that he says things that make people say both “I’ve never thought of it that way before” and “How dare he say that!” He is one of those speakers that makes you both smile and sometimes get angry. At this specific lecture afterwards I heard from a RN who found him quite annoying and a college student amazed by his input. Even I was shaken as a core value of mine was questioned. I deeply appreciate that.
At one point in this lecture, he was talking about when children die and how folks often say, “Kids aren’t supposed to die.” Now if there is one topic in death and dying that is likely to push peoples’ buttons it is talking about kids dying. He moved forward and you could hear a pin drop and the air get sucked out of the room as he shared the following thoughts:
“Why do we think kids aren’t supposed to die? Kids do die, daily.”
“Everyone who died, was at the end of their life. They all had a full life’
“What really is a full life? How about it, what if we ask dying kids if they feel they’ve had a full life?”
I encourage you to take a moment and think about how those statements resonate with you.
He followed talking about how some parents hide from a child the fact that they will die – especially those that are diagnosed to do so soon. And he shared a conversation he had with a child about how her life was full and the experiences she had that made her feel more comfortable with dying.
Curious to learn more about Jenkinson? You can read his book, DIE WISE, view the documentary film Griefwalker (available to stream online), or learn from him directly at his lectures and retreats. More information on all options can be found at orphanwisdom.com
I’m thankful I’ve been able to learn from him. While I do not agree with everything he says, he IS a trailblazer in making us challenge our long held and restrictive views on death and dying.
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Kel McBride, MLS, CEOLS, also known as the Lively Death Lady is a death and dying educator. She supports people in making informed decisions about their death that are in sync with their values. From health care to legacy, McBride makes the morbid intriguing and light-hearted, with amusing examples and details of lesser-known options. Her clients get their documents in order, have quality conversations about their wishes with friends and family – and also find a new focus on LIVING. She primarily works with people who are younger & healthy, people who believe their death is in the distant future. For more information or to be added to her EXPIRATIONS INSPIRATIONS blog email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit clearlydepart.com