TRBQ: What Is A Good Death?

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The topic of death carries immense weight and affects every one of us in a different way. Some find the prospect of moving on from this life to be a scary, unwelcome feeling. Others feel at peace knowing there is an end, and that encourages them to live in a different way. On this episode of The Really Big Questions, we explore the idea of what a “good death” means.

Traditionally, the average person has come to believe that a quick and painless death is the way to go. But perhaps we’re thinking about it all wrong. A growing community of people are embracing death as a part of life. They’re hosting death salons, building their own coffins, and preparing the bodies of loved ones for burial or cremation. This isn’t a new idea: for millennia, philosophers have argued that accepting your mortality is the path to happiness. Today, there seems to be renewed interest in the idea.

Hear from a wide variety of guests who have a newfound look on death:

  • Jeffrey Piehler is a retired surgeon with incurable cancer who says he would never go back to life before the diagnosis
  • Mary Roach, author of Stiff: The Curious Lives Of Human Cadavers and Spook: Science Tackles The Afterlife, on the affects of her mother's death, and why we should have our funerals while we're still alive
  • Paul Olsen, a paleontologist who takes us to a fossil site to talk about the bigger picture of death
  • Jeff Jorgenson, a mortician who takes us on a trip to pick up a body
  • Patrick Kilby, a woodworker who makes simple, wooden caskets and DIY casket kits
  • Jennifer Michael Hecht, a poet and historian of science who thinks we see death the same way the Victorians saw sex: as something to hide away