Editor’s Notebook

Let’s Talk About Death (and Sustainability)

By Greta Belanger deJong

As nature pulls its life force underground and darkness descends a few minutes earlier each evening, we call upon our readers to engage in the ancient spiritual practice of Memento Mori—”remember that you will die.” And, word has it, it’s okay. After all, we are nature, and that’s what nature does.

It pairs nicely with Carpe Diem—”seize the day.” (Thank you, old Greeks and Romans, for these notions.) Together, they make a good life plan.

My mom (b. 1911) remembered her German grandma (b. mid-1800s) reciting before bedtime: “My God, I know that I must die. I don’t know where, or when, or why.” That always sounded more like a lament than a prayer to me, but it’s true enough— a chilling thought that can trouble an otherwise good day. Enter the mystery. Bring your parka.

Like pretty much everything in life, contemplation and a plan can make death easier—if not for the dead, at least for the living.

And that’s what this issue is about. Let’s break the taboo of talking about death.

Christian Fox invites us to learn about the “death positive” movement, in his story on the Death Salon (p. 25). Stephanee Grosscup tells the story of a beautiful death that happened the way it did because people shared their vision and committed to carry it through (p. 18). Diane Olson talks about getting her death act together with a “Departure File” (p. 17). Yes, Diane definitely knows how to walk this talk.

You’ll find ideas and resources for more ecological send-offs. Katherine Pioli offers tips on obituary writing and introduces us to the Conversation Project, where the question is “What matters to you?” rather than “What’s the matter?” For the living, there’s the Caring Connection—where the grieving will find comfort.

I presume all good recyclers have prepared for the last big recycling effort: organ donation. If not, we tell you how to get on the register, and offer reasons why it’s a good idea (p. 14).

Staying in the spirit of the month, Charlotte Bell explores Corpse Pose in the Yoga column. Playwright Elaine Jarvik shares how she came to write a children’s play about death and grieving. Photographer Austen Diamond visits artist and grande dame Pilar Pobil, whose house includes a dark and gorgeous art installation/ crypt annotating an ongoing life lived long and well. And in Prose Garden—well, I’m not even going to say a word. Just read it. Beautiful.

Not everything’s about death. Taylor Hartman shines a spotlight on the SLC Bike Collective. Marty Stum offers valuable advice on home-buying. “Autumn is a very good time to search for a house: it’s not 100 degrees, it’s easy to get around (no snow), and you can see what the yard looks like,” he says. Jim French inspires all homeowners to plant dwarf fruit trees. And the regulars are here, too, of course—EnviroNews, Off Center, Metaphors. Take your time.


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P3 Utah—Business Sustainability for People, Planet Profit. Along with the U.S. Green Building Council, this nonprofit organization is hosting their 2017 Sustainability Summit October 12, with a panel discussion the night prior, at the Falls Center at Trolley Square.

I moderate that Wednesday night panel. With Locke Ettinger, PhD, PT, architect Jeff Davis and others we will address the issue of modern society and the web of life. How can we survive (and, one hopes, thrive) in the face of climate change, mistrust of public institutions, rising economic disparity and cultural tension?

Thursday’s 8am-4:30pm summit focuses on best sustainability practices in three tracks: business, healthcare and the built environment. Hear from keynotes Michelle Hofmann, MD, founder of cofounder of Breathe Utah; public health/sustainability expert Adele Houghton; Jenna Arkin of Earth Friendly Products and Richard Eidlin, American Sustainable Business Council.

More about the summit HERE or Register.

Greta Belanger deJong is founder, editor and publisher of CATALYST.

This article was originally published on October 2, 2017.