Time travel as close as your local cemetery.

Putting death into perspective

March 9, 2014 / by davidwalton

When I was a business major in college, all students were required to purchase a subscription to the Wall Street Journal.

wsj1For those of you who may not remember, it was an oversized non-color newspaper that always ran six columns of type on the front page and used dot-ink portraits rather than photos.

Besides a design that screamed B-O-R-I-N-G, the editorial content was even stodgier.

In 2007, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation made a takeover bid for the newspaper and has turned it into the largest newspaper in the United States. And yes, I am once again a subscriber.

Besides business stories and news from around the world, the WSJ has branched out into everything from fashion to quirky stories on such things as death.

Last week, the Journal ran a review on Erika Hayasaki’s book The Death Class: A True Story About Life. (click here to read WSJ article)

It talks about how Americans are talking more openly about death and how some colleges are even offering classes on the topic.

81-Sq0V4xqLThere’s actually a three-year waiting list to get into “Death in Perspective” at Kean University in Union, NJ. Students enrolled in the class take a field trip to the local coroner’s office where they see dead corpses and watch an autopsy being performed, which sometimes causes a student or two to scurry out of the room.

The class also visits a cemetery, a maximum security prison to visit murderers, a hospice, a crematory and a funeral home where one of the assignments is to pick out a casket for themselves.

One of the class requirements is students must write goodbye letters to dead loved ones, in addition to composing their own eulogies and wills.

Not only are these college students learning all aspects of death but the class also teaches them to confront the subject head on.

The review goes on to discuss the increasingly popular death gatherings, such as death dinners, death over craft beer and death cafes.

DeathOverDinner.org was founded to help people plan and host mortality-themed banquets.

DeathOverDinner.org was founded to help people plan and host mortality-themed banquets.

There’s even a growing trend online, including YouTube where people are pose questions on the series, “Ask a Mortician.”

Growing up, my family never got into deep discussions on death. When someone died, you would go to the funeral home to pay your last respects, and try to comfort family and friends. When you left it was never to be discussed again.

I’m so glad that more colleges are teaching these classes — although I’m somewhat sorry this class wasn’t offered during my college years. Death is part of life; it should be talked about.

Until next time…


One thought on “Putting death into perspective

  1. Dawn says:

    During my senior year at Holy Rosary we studied death and marriage in Religion class. The first half the school year we studied marriage and had to plan our own wedding. The second half we studied death. We had to write our obituary twice, once as if we died right then, as a teenager and then if we lived to be an old lady. We also had a field trip to the crematorium when it was down near Phoenix Hill.

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