On Kindness


“The world takes from us relentlessly. It takes our friends and first loves. It takes our parents. It takes our faith. It takes our dignity. It takes our passion. It takes our health. It takes our honesty, and it takes our credulity. To lose so much and still hold onto yourself is perhaps the most complicated task human beings are asked to perform, which is why seeing it done with aplomb is as thrilling as looking at dinosaur bones or seeing a herd of elephants. It’s an honor to exist on Earth with these things.”

Excerpt from On Kindness by Cord Jefferson

What Does Death Look Like?

Caught in the Trees

Originally posted on Infinite Dive:

My maternal Grandpa died when I was two. Most of my early childhood memories are nebulous, at best. However, his death and the thoughts that boiled inside my mind are some of the most vivid memories I have of my early childhood.

Nobody explained to me what death meant, other than Grandpa was gone and I wouldn’t be able to see him again. I missed him dearly. At night, between fits of tears that called shadows to my crib, I’d contemplate what death felt like.

I wondered about whether it would only be my body that stopped working and my mind would remain. If I were stuck inside my dead body forever, would I feel the worms eating me as I lay in the ground? Would I be able to talk to the other dead people in the ground next to me? Maybe death meant I’d wink right out of existence and everything that was me would just stop. I’d lay there blinking like a twisted “I Dream of Jeannie” as I tried to manifest what it would feel like to stop. Stop living. Stop breathing. Stop existing. Stop.

The thought of simply ending scared me and I’d whimper under my covers.

Even now, despite my death experience when I was 22 and having experienced the pain of loved ones dying, my thoughts and feelings about what death looks like are all over the map and ever-changing. In some ways, I feel in order to understand what death looks like, I need to look at what life looks and feels like.

What does death look like to you? What gives you comfort? What scares you?

How is Technology Changing our Relationship with Death?

Dee Ashley - Modified

Original Art Work: Dee Ashley, found at: http://bit.ly/1EifVfI – modified for BeforeTheEnd.org

Dying to think about your death and plan your afterlife? Online platforms are now making that easier than ever before.

There aren’t many people who want to think, let alone talk about their own mortality. If anything, we have created whole industries and sectors to further distance our day-to-day lives from the harsh reality that a day will come, sooner or later, when we will die. Online platforms are changing that.

As we increasingly store more of our digital assets on the cloud and document our lives on social media, it has become critical for online platforms to allow users to make choices about their digital afterlife. This gains more significance when you realize that in the not so distant future the number of profiles belonging to dead people on any social media platform will be more than the number of its living participants.

Over the past few years, companies like Google, Yahoo Japan and most recently Facebook have introduced tools that encourage users to think about their death and to make choices regarding their digital afterlife. There are also a host of online start-ups dedicated to helping people plan and manage their death, ranging from end-of-life and funeral planning to posthumous messages, online memorials, and creating interactive avatars of the deceased that can continue living in the digital world.

While these technologies are encouraging us to think about our death, are they in some ways also further distancing us from the reality of our mortality by promoting the illusion of an afterlife?


Vancouver Sunset

This poem was originally posted on NikNazK.com

Before my last exhale,
Before the curtain falls,
Before the last flower wilts,

I intend to live fully,
I intend to love without inhibition,
I intend to be.

In this cruel world,
In this era steeped in hatred and grudge,
In this age filled with disasters,

I want to be in the presence of those who need me,
Whom I need,
Who are worthy of reverence?

So that I can discover,
Be mesmerized,
And understand anew,

All that I am,
All that I can be,
All that I want to be.

So that the days don’t pass me by in meaningless void,
The hours become alive,
And the moments gain significance.

When I laugh,
When I cry,
When I am silent,

I am journeying towards you,
Towards myself,
Towards the divine.

For it is an unknown path,
Full of thorns,
And ebbs and flows.

A path that upon taking,
Upon which I have already stepped foot,
There is no return,

Until I have seen the blossoming of the flowers,
Until I have heard the rivers roar,
Until I have been awed by the beauty of life.

Now death can find me,
Now I can carry on with the journey,
Now I can say that I have lived.

(Farsi to English translation by NikNaz K. Original Poem by Margot Bickel in German, translated to Farsi by Ahmad Shamlou)

Post-Mortem Photography

Recently, I was sifting through a box of old black and white photos passed down to me after my maternal grandmother died in 2006. The box contains photos spanning from the late 1800’s to 1955.

There are many cherished, curious, and down-right strange photos in the box, one of which I’ve always found quite fascinating. It’s a photo of my great aunt (my maternal grandmother’s older sister), standing next to the grave site of her recently deceased husband, circa 1945, at Mountain View Cemetery in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Great Aunt at Mountain View Cemetery

Whenever I look at this photo, I’m struck by the curiosity that is post-mortem photography, which is the practice of photographing the recently deceased. It’s not something we see very much anymore, but it was wildly popular during the Victorian Era, and for centuries before when painting the deceased was very common.

With a half-smile upon her face, I often wonder what my great aunt was thinking about when she posed for the photo. I can imagine, of course, but the idea of posing next to a grave site or the body of a deceased loved one seems so odd to me, I’m left wishing she was still alive so I could ask her.

Have you ever come across any old family photos like this? What do you think?