The Courage to be with Death: Movers and Shakers

Optimized-NTMholdingsilvan_TinaLewis_zpsb10fd2e8The Courage to Be with Death. Editorial for Natural Transitions Magazine: Movers and Shakers issue, Vol. 3 No. 3. by Karen van Vuuren.

Editorials customarily address the current issue of a publication, so forgive me for first writing about one that is past. The theme for Natural Transitions Magazine, volume 3 #2 was “Responding to Crisis.” How difficult that can be, considering all the variables coupled with the inability of those in the trenches of grief to think and make decisions! Not long after that issue came out, deep sadness rippled through our school community when a seventh grade student was swept to her death in the torrents of Boulder Creek. Thirteen-year-old Sophia DuBose died after the family vehicle crashed into the waters after hitting a car that had stopped to avoid a bear in the road.


Two members of our school community learned that the parents were on their way to the mortuary to “make arrangements.” It was imperative to head them off before they walked through the funeral home doors if they were to hear information about a different, potentially more healing way of marking this tragic event. The sense was that the family was open to ritual that could reconnect them to their child, carried away, first by the river, then by the coroner for a legally mandated autopsy.


Outside the mortuary, parents and friends listened as Natural Transitions’ advocates painted a picture of possibilities. There was no barrage of questions. (Questions can be overwhelming for people in shock.) Instead they simply heard, “You can go to the morgue and get Sophia when the coroner is done. You can bring her home.” Looking at the Dead in the last issue of our magazine emphasized the importance of offering those who are suddenly and tragically bereaved the opportunity to make an informed choice about viewing their dead. This family chose, unequivocally, to reclaim their daughter, supported by caring, courageous members of their community.


It takes courage to change attitudes and conventions that are rooted in fear. Fear is the reason for our disconnection to death. Imagine the courage it took (and the love) for Sophia’s family to retrieve their daughter from the morgue? Imagine the courage and incredible capacity for service for school parents to step in and assist the family in laying out their precious child.


In this isue of NTM, Lee Webster features just a small selection of the lesser known, courageous movers and shakers who are changing the paradigm around death, inviting us to overcome our fear and reestablish an affirmative relationship to our mortality. Potter, Julian Stair’s anthropomorphized funerary art provocatively asks: what is your relationship to death? Brit, Jon Underwood’s Death Cafe idea proliferates beyond his wildest imagination (Why I go to the Death Cafe by Holly Pruett). This issue of NTM is about bringing death into view, responding to it in the most heart-centered way, lest we forget its part in life.



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