A Class on Death Teaches About Life

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Nurse Norma Bowe explains why she decided to teach a college course on death and why it became so popular. She’s joined by journalist Erika Hayasaki, to discuss how Norma worked with four extraordinary students from struggling families and difficult neighborhoods toward happiness. She rescued one young woman from her suicidal mother, helped a young man manage his schizophrenic brother, and has inspired another to leave his gang life. Hayasaki writes about the class and its impact in The Death Class: A True Story about Life.


Norma Bowe and Erika Hayasaki

Comments [11]


The New York Academy of Sciences has been running a year long series on mortality.
The fourth in the series is
• The Wednesday, February 5, 2014 | 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM
Confronting Mortality: Faith and Meaning across Cultures
Featuring: Allan Kellehear, Jeffrey J. Kripal, and Lani Leary
Moderator: Steve Paulson
How do we cope with the inevitability of our mortality? Experts in psychology, philosophy and sociology come together to share a multicultural perspective on death, dying, and what lies beyond.

Jan. 16 2014 01:07 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Well, we're not all *exactly* the same on the inside. In general, yes, but there are some (minor) muscles that some people don't have, & some people are born w/their heart & lungs, & in some cases their abdominal organs too, reversed! Most famously, basketball professional "Pistol Pete" Maravich was born w/out a left coronary artery, the main artery that supplies blood to the heart muscle. This wasn't found out till he died of a heart attack at age 40.

Jan. 16 2014 12:46 PM
Roman from Brooklyn

Not to belittle the conversation on human death by bringing up animals, but I've had pets all of my life and have gone through seeing many of them die. One of the fascinating and often heartbreaking aspects of their death (especially for a child) was that they almost always seemed to perk up significantly, as if they were getting better, right before they finally died. I always wondered why and how that happened.

Jan. 16 2014 12:38 PM
Laura from Nyack

*****I've also been told that brain activity continues up to 30 minutes after the body stops... and so consciousness may still exist. CAn they speak to this?

Jan. 16 2014 12:35 PM
Parisa from New York

From a young age I have been accustomed to death. Loosing a number of people I have been close with at a young age (including my mother), growing up in a family that is in the funeral home business, and volunteering at a hospice during high school, one would have thought death was not an uncommon thing to talk about. But it was. We were a family that was okay talking about other people dying but it was not exclusive to our own family and friends. I remember taking a course on death in college to explore the feeling of loss and to learn how to be comfortable with the many emotional and complex layers of loosing someone, and how to let go.

Thanks for this segment - it's terrific.

Jan. 16 2014 12:35 PM
laura from Nyack

I don't think the author has answered one of the central questions... why do we die? (I realize that's a medical question, but also a philosophical one.)

Jan. 16 2014 12:34 PM
Wayne Johnson Ph.D. from Bk

Thank you for this show. One of the best books I have ever read on this subject is by Julian Barnes: "Nothing to Be Frightened Of"

Jan. 16 2014 12:33 PM

Please ask your guests: Does how individuals deal with life differ depending on whether they have an afterlife belief or they are without?

Jan. 16 2014 12:30 PM
GreenBearNYC from Yonkers, NY

Ms. Bowe,

Have you considered teaching your class at The Open Center in New York City? I think it would be a great venue for making this class available to more people--I am certainly interested in the class!


Jan. 16 2014 12:27 PM
foodaggro from Brooklyn

But most people don't live to be 100 years old. Maybe 90.

Jan. 16 2014 12:16 PM
Ed from Larchmont

Wonderful, right in the Judaic-Christian tradition: be prepared, one knows not the day nor the hour.

Jan. 16 2014 08:48 AM

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