The Picturing Death Project Journal Entries from 1999-2003

The simple but effective structure for the Picturing Death Project, a cast glass table, four chairs, and journals, provide a structure for journal writing with 4 questions that help participants examine how we will choose to live with the knowledge that death is inevitable. Currently, the project table, chairs and journals reside at Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan in Kalamazoo.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Journal Entry 1

People with near-death experience state that they have seen a tunnel with a bright light at the end. This could just be due to lack of oxygen to the brain. Being raised a Lutheran all of my life, I like to think that I am going to heaven. It is described in the Bible as having pearl gates and streets paved with gold, but this could be a metaphor. Since some of the greatest writers use wonderful metaphors and the Bible is inspired by God, He would use beautiful metaphors.

I think heaven is perfect, there is no prejudice. You can read people’s minds, and so understand their perspective and ideas so you will understand their actions so no get angry with them. The great philosophical (I can’t spell) questions like what is the sound of one hand clapping and what happens after you die will be answered because you can read everyones’ minds and they can read read yours so all discussions and understanding can happen instantly so everyone will have a great epiphany. there will be no pain because pain is caused by misunderstandings and mistakes due to inadequate knowledge, and since you can read everyone’s minds instantly and vice versa, you will know everything, so everything will be perfect. And this one thing that is most out of man’s (or woman’s to be PC, even though I mean mankind) understanding but strongly in our hearts, God will be there with us, everything will be A.O.K. And anything we couldn’t figure out, we just ask the big Guy, and He would tell somebody. And everybody would instantly know in the twinkling of an eye and a trumpet blast. We would finally be able to access that 90% of the knowledge that is stuck in brains that we can’t access because our brain doesn’t have the right wrinkle.

I have had someone close to me die, but I seem to keep myself distant from it. I don’t particularly like funerals. When I was real little my brothers best friend died. The truck rolled on loose gravel. He was 10. I remember when they said Charlie died. I said to myself, “Not that Charlie.” We went to the visitation and yes, it was that Charlie. His neck was covered in thick make-up to hide where the shards of glass had cut. My Grandma died around last Thanksgiving. I didn’t want to go to her funeral. We never saw her as much as we should have, she would come out in her apron and bandana on her head and give us a great big hug. She cooked great meals for us while we were there and always wanted me to draw, oh how she loved the drawings. Now she is simply not there. I worked in a nursing home for 5 years, and that’s how it goes. They get sick so you don’t set there place at the table and then they’re not there so you don’t set there place at the table and eventually the memories fade and you forget that phrase that they repeated continuously and how the liked their toast. My Grandpa (on the other side of the family) died when he was 82. I don’t remember how old he was. I didn’t know hem that well. He just sat there and didn’t say much and let us pick out one wooden toy, the duck with the rubber flaps on the wheels that flap, flap, flapped as you pushed it. He had a fake eye, but I don’t know which one. My mom told me he was always the first one up and out in the field. The neighbors tried to beat him out, always getting up earlier and earlier, but couldn’t do it. One day they got up extra early and went out to the fields with lanterns and that was the only time they beat him out to the field, and they were never able to again. When he retired, he continued waking up at 4 in the morning, and he wet to the doctor to see what was wrong. The doctor told him he had “old farmer’s disease” and he wanted to know how to cure it. He was just too used to getting up early to change.

I wish I knew this serious, hard working man. Those are my own experiences with death. And this, too, shall pass.

I do not think that the knowledge that I am going to die adds anything to my life. I plan for the future, not considering it may not be. I try to put as much enjoyment into the bustle of life as I can without being extravagant. I do not think I would change anything in my life if I knew the date I was going to die, except maybe warn the. “ Yeah, I’m not showing up to work next week, I’m going to be dead.” I would try to pay my debts. The thought of owing anyone erks me. As does being a burden on others, needing their help. Death does not scare me. Growing old worries me. i don’t want to not be able to move, to think on my own. Should I settle down, buy land, have kids? Travel, adventure, see the world? How could I afford either one of these? Responsibility? The uncertainty of life worries me more than the uncertainty of death does.

I have things I want to accomplish in life. Some I’ve done. I own a house. Some I haven’t. I’ve never been off this continent. But the fact that I am going to die does not add meaning to either of these. I do not regret things I have done and do not regret not yet having done all of my goals. If I did all my goals, then death would have meaning. I would just be waiting for it. But I will always have projects to do.

Death, oh where is thy sting?

It is a good day to die.

I have no hopes or fears of death. I have hopes and fears of possibilities of my life, but these will no longer matter when I’m dead. that is due to my faith. When I die, I’ll go to heaven, if my faith is correct. If it is not, either there will be nothing (that doesn’t seem so bad, nothing to hope or fear there) or I will be reincarnated (I’ve been good due to the faith I do have, if that’s true, I’ll be reincarnated as something good. Nothing to hope or fear there). So either way, I’m set. If the question is meaning method of death, I don’t really have that either. Pain is temporary. And most people close to death are so badly injured, they are in shock and don’t feel any pain. The one thing I would fear is the effect on my mom (I am a momma’s boy). I would hate to cause her pain. I would also hate for her to die, she is my rock and someone I can talk to about my day. It would be lonely without her. One time she got in a bad car accident and fractured some vertebrae. She had a long neck brace on and had a bruise on one eye. Visiting her in that hospital room made me nauseous and light headed. I had to sit down, a little ways away. I hate hospitals. What I hoe for is a quick burial.

I want to be buried right away, right where I die in a simple, old-fashioned wooden casket. Then, call everyone I know and tell them I’m gone. They can get together and drink and have a good time and tell stories of how crazy I was. My mom said I couldn’t do this because if I don’t have a funeral, everyone will think it’s a joke and won’t believe I’m dead. I’m never going to die, I’m just going to show up missing.

My mom also says people need closure. She was driving a pastor’s son home from basketball practice and got rear-ended, and he died. He was in 7th or 8th grade. She cried a lot at the funeral, but it helped.

Death is not a pretty thing.

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