The ‘Bohemian” article
No one who hasn’t lost a child can imagine how many times each day I think of Owen, and why I’m so proud to be doing work that honors his life and that of his brother, my older son, Nat. Yes, certainly, every parent lives and breathes with her or his children – each time they learn a new word, fall down and stand back up, graduate from some educational endeavor, get a great job, quit a bad job, stand up for themselves in difficult situations, and reflect on the all-important moments we remember…and forget because time passes…no matter what. We all die. It just happens that sometimes, it’s unexpected, tragic, and/or complex. Think Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013. And, remember.
I didn’t plan on working in thanatology – the study of dying, death, and bereavement. But, after losing my dad when I was 10, and losing so many family members and friends over the years (more dead than alive now) – my mom, and Owen – well, really, how could I not think this study is a fit? My day job is still in human resources, and you might not believe how often death is a part of the conversation with employees. It is, because it happens as often as birth. I love the photos of new babies that our employees send to my department. I also spend lots of time with employees whose family and friends are dying or have recently passed. The memorials, well, yes, I go to lots of them, too. It’s an honor to be considered a part of our employees’ lives and their life events. Ultimately, I’ve worked in thanatology since I was a kid. I was one of the few of my circle who talked of death openly. Thanks, Mom and Emmitt.
It’s a fit, thanatology, that is, because I couldn’t let my losses limit my ability to live fully. I think of it this way. If I’m afraid of death, my own and those of my loved ones, I’ll be afraid to live. That just doesn’t make sense. I want to live my life with a strong attraction to what makes us tick, how we get through what we get through, what’s after this life, what is consciousness, and what’s significant about our various paths toward that day that started at the moment of our own births.
As part of my PhD program last semester, I was tasked with choosing a “transformational project” that answered to a doctoral-level study in transformation. Transformation is one of those words that often silences us out of an inability to accurately define what it is. What is transformation to you?
Do you believe in magic? I do. I always have, even right after my dad died, when this song was released: