Parting Ways explores the emergence of rituals that reinvent the role of family and community to celebrate the end of life in America. Denise Carson takes us on a journey that contrasts her father’s isolated passing in hospital during the 1980s with her mother’s end of life passage at home nearly two decades later, both from cancer. The last months of her mother’s life reveal the patient becoming a person in control of her own passing to prepare for an end that opens the door for a ceremonial farewell, known as a living wake, when friends and family come to reminisce and pay tribute to her life before her death.
Carson travels from the East to West coasts to introduce families creating new rituals like the living wake that celebrate life. We meet new end-of-life guides along the way orchestrating oral ethical wills, living funerals, life story books, biography videos, vigils and home funerals that draw on services of doulas and midwives. Integrating the profoundly personal with the objectively historical, Parting Ways calls for an “end of life revolution” to change the way of death in America.