Death Barged In

Pia’s birthday was last week. I didn’t call her or send a card or bake a cake. Such efforts would have fallen on deaf ears, because she died six years ago in January. Pia was the older sister I’d never had, and she’d welcomed me into her life with apricots and a warm pot of […]

What is a good death?

My beloved neighbor Joanne was 87 years old when her son found her dead in the hallway of her old farmhouse on Monday. They’d gone to a funeral together that morning — a younger relative had died of pancreatic cancer — and after lunch he’d dropped her off at home. When he returned later that […]

Until the Bitter End

Last night I read Robin Marantz Henig’s beautiful story about Peggy Battin, a bioethicist and advocate for patients who wish to end their lives, and her husband, Brooke Hopkins. A bike accident in 2008 left Brooke paralyzed from the shoulders down and in need of almost constant care. Some days Brooke wants to live; other […]

Guest Post: Death’s Eternal Logistics

I spent several hours on Sunday afternoon in what has to be the most charming cemetery in New York City. If I didn’t know what I was looking for, I would have missed its arched iron gate, tucked into 2nd Avenue just north of East 2nd Street, where the East Village meets the Lower East Side. Once through, […]

Galápagos Monday: Southern Inhospitality

This is the second installment of a six-week series about my recent trip to the Galápagos. You can read my first post, about tortoises and donkeys, here. At dawn on June 6, more than 30 years after Lynn was chasing tortoises at the top of Alcedo, our boat anchored near the volcano’s base in Urbina Bay. By […]

Continuity and Deep Time

About a decade before my father died, he asked me to start collecting rocks for him. I didn’t fully understand why, but since I was studying geology at the time, I began to pick them up wherever I visited. Limestone from the Alps; granite from New Zealand. He kept the rocks I collected on a […]

Breaking Through

This past summer, I spent two weeks sitting, working and, once, sleeping next to a hospital bed, trying and failing to communicate with my father. He had called for an ambulance on the evening of July 25 because he couldn’t breathe. With end-stage emphysema, he often couldn’t breathe, but apparently that night he was frightened […]

Diagnosing Grief

Last week Jessa wrote about psychiatric diagnoses moving from the quantum to the continuum, from neat little packages to subtleties that include shades of gray and something called “a quantifiable baseline of life functioning.”  The same week, Ginny published a story about the same diagnostic changes but applied specifically to pathological grief – the problem […]