As a young medical student, Dr. David Casarett was inspired by the story of a two-year-old girl named Michelle Funk. Michelle fell into a creek and was underwater for over an hour. When she was found she wasn’t breathing, and her pupils were fixed and dilated. That drowning should have been fatal. But after three hours of persistent work, a team of doctors and nurses was able to bring her back. It was a miracle.
If Michelle could come back after three hours of being dead, what about twelve hours? Or twenty-four? What would it take to revive someone who had been frozen for one thousand years? And what does blurring the line between “life” and “death” mean for society? In Shocked, Casarett chronicles his exploration of the cutting edge of resuscitation and reveals just how far science has come.
Gail Sheehy, the author of Passages, a book that changed millions of lives, now lays bare her own life passages in a memoir that reveals her harrowing and ultimately triumphant path from groundbreaking 1960s "girl" journalist to bestselling author who made a career of excavating cultural taboos - from sex, menopause, and midlife crisis to illness, caregiving, and death.
In 1961, Michael Rockefeller, son of then-governor of New York State Nelson Rockefeller, mysteriously disappeared off the remote coast of southern New Guinea. Amidst the glare of international public interest, the governor, along with his daughter Mary, Michael’s twin, set off on a futile search, only to return empty handed and empty hearted. What followed were Mary’s 27-year repression of her grief and an unconscious denial of her twin’s death, which haunted her relationships and controlled her life.
In her frank and moving memoir, When Grief Calls Forth the Healing: A Memoir of Losing a Twin, Mary Rockefeller Morgan struggles to claim an individual identity, which enables her to face Michael’s death and the huge loss it engendered. In the book, she shares her healing journey and her story of moving forward into a life of new beginnings and meaning, especially in her work with others who have lost a twin.
Michael Hainey was 6 years old in 1970 when his Uncle came to their home one morning, to tell Michael and his brother that their father was dead. Bob Hainey was just 35. He was the night editor at the Chicago Sun-Times. Bob Hainey had died of a heart attack on a North Side street - as one of the obits put it - while visiting friends.
Over the years, Michael Hainey grew up to be a journalist himself - he's now the deputy editor of GQ - and began to wonder about some of the small differences in the obits between newspapers, and about some of the obliqueness in the accounts of his father's death that he grew up hearing from his uncle and mother.
Katy Butler was living thousands of miles from her vigorous and self-reliant parents when the call came: a crippling stroke had left her proud seventy-nine-year-old father unable to fasten a belt or complete a sentence. Tragedy at first drew the family closer: her mother devoted herself to caregiving, and Butler joined the twenty-four million Americans helping shepherd parents through their final declines.
Scott Taylor Smith, a venture capitalist and lawyer, had plentiful resources, and yet after his mother died, he made a series of agonizing and costly mistakes in squaring away her affairs. He could find countless books that dealt with caring for the dying and the emotional fallout of death, but very few that dealt with the logistics.In the aftermath of his mother’s death, Smith decided to write the book he wished he’d had.
Helen Keller famously wrote that "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing." She continued: "To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable."
It has been said that in the long run, we are all dead.
But for some of the most influential figures in history, death marked the start of a new adventure. The famous deceased have been stolen, burned, sold, pickled, frozen, stuffed, impersonated, and even filed away in a lawyer’s office.
Counterfeiters tried to steal Lincoln’s corpse. Einstein’s brain went on a cross-country road trip. And after Lord Horatio Nelson perished at Trafalgar, his sailors submerged him in brandy—which they drank.
From Mozart to Hitler, Rest in Pieces is a book that connects the lives of the famous dead to the hilarious and horrifying adventures of their corpses, and traces the evolution of cultural attitudes toward death. Bess Lovejoy is a writer, researcher, and editor based in Seattle.
At a recent writing workshop I attended, I read a short, painful piece about the illness and death of a high school friend to my fellow writers. For some time since writing the piece, I have been struggling with the wisdom of attempting to publish it because some of my friend’s family members are still alive, and much of what I wrote might be quite distressing to them if they saw it in print. The group told me to stop worrying about this, specifically because they felt that the essay honors her memory, and that the main goal of personal essay and memoir is honest self- expression. Still