During the Action Mill's trip to San Francisco last week to attend Wisdom 2.0, we visited The Neptune Society's Columbarium, a kind of cemetery for the ashes of people who have chosen to be cremated. During a tour of the columbarium, which was built in 1898, we were struck by the deeply personal nature of what people chose to include in their loved ones' niches. From hot sauce to stuffed animals, personal notes to San Francisco Giants banners, each spot told a small story about someone who is deeply missed. And together, the space has a feeling of community; a place where families and friends can come to mourn and remember together.
It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and forget what really matters to you. When I lost someone I loved very much, I thought about death a lot. This helped clarify my life, the people I want to be with, and the things I want to do, but I struggled to maintain perspective. I wondered if other people felt the same way. So with help from old and new friends, I painted the side of an abandoned house in my neighborhood in New Orleans with chalkboard paint and stenciled it with a grid of the sentence “Before I die I want to _______.” Anyone walking by could pick up a piece of chalk, reflect on their lives, and share their personal aspirations in public space.
Over 100 Before I Die walls have been created around the world, and a toolkit is now available. Visit the website to view Before I Die walls in multiple languages and get simple, easy instructions for how to create your own.
The doctors at the Hopital Raymond Poincare in Garches, France, decided that a family's last goodbye with a loved one shouldn't take place in a cold, impersonal room, so they commissioned Italian artist Ettore Spalletti, British sound artist Robin Rimbaud (known as Scanner), and American composer David Lang to create a morgue that feels like no other."We try to treat the dead as we would treat the sick, with the same level of medical care."
— chief pathologist Professor Michel Durigon
"I was adament ... that I felt like this music should last a certain amount of time ... and then it should be over. And then, if you decide that you would like to stay there longer, that's between you and the silence. Here's the contribution I can make, and when I've made that contribution, I should get out."
— Composer David Lang on RadioLab
- The Last Goodbye BBC Radio 4