Tonight was the "COPACE Social" - the beginning of class was slightly delayed due to a bit of pizza eating/mingling in the lobby of Jonas Clark. Recently acquired food allergies kept me from eating the food, but I heard from classmates that it was enjoyable.
This evening during my (COPACE) course On Death and Dying, while folks munched pizza around me, we reviewed for our midterm exam (scheduled for a week from today). As we reviewed the Kubler-Ross model of the five stages of dying/grieving, I couldn't help but remember a '30 Rock' episode that referenced the model (and poked a bit of fun at one of the main characters of the show: clip here).
Following my giggles over Jack Donaghy, I began pondering more the manner in which media skews death and issues relating. In discussion of doctor-patient communication and a 1995 project titled SUPPORT (Study to Understand Prognoses and Preferences for Outcomes and Risks of Treatment), we found troubling results in regards to various aspects of pain control, discussion between care providers and patients, how frequently patients' preferences for CPR were taken into account, and overall, the caliber of doctor-patient communication. I can't help but feel that this is because people shy away from death, and of speaking of anything related. Media seems to frequently portray death as two odd extremes: violently (think Saw, Kill Bill, or Silence of the Lambs, or any slasher/horror film), or as poetic, meaningful, and symbolic (like in one of my favorite films, Big Fish). Few people want to talk about the gritty specifics of death - what does quality of life mean to the individual? Should a feeding tube be put in place? When should a DNR (do-not-resuscitate) order occur?
And, of course, society shies away from discussing death with loved ones because that means coming to terms with the fact that everyone will, eventually, die.
There's a quote that's often read before the mourner's kaddish prayer during Shabbat services. It reads "it is difficult to love what death can also touch" (for the time being I forget with whom to credit this quotation).
I know that it's difficult to discuss death, particularly the death of one who is dearly loved. But it frustrates me to realize that society's fear of death (as a whole) could be damaging those last few moments of life that a person has. Only because it is fearful to discuss such terrifying and inevitable things are we unable to make those last moments more comfortable and desirable for the person dying.
Possibly, I will delve further into this topic during my final paper/presentation for the course.
Also tonight the professor briefly touched on a music project that we'll be engaging in a bit later in the semester; we will be venturing into the world of music in search of songs that deal with the topic of death. Initially, Death Cab For Cutie's "What Sarah Said" came to mind, as it was song that resonated with me during the time that my grandfather was dying. I couldn't think of any other songs, though, so I'll have to remember to pay more attention to death mentioned in music for the next couple of weeks (or, if anyone has any suggestions/recommendations, please pass them on).
I have successfully completed one midterm (for SOC 203: American Jewish Life) but I have another tomorrow (in JS 117: Narratives of the Hebrew Bible), so I need to study a bit more and then get some rest. Goodnight everyone! Sweet dreams (Are Made of This).