As the author of Parting Ways, I worked with Perri Peltz, director and broadcast journalist, on the documentary, Alternate Endings: Six New Ways to Die in America, premiering on HBO Wednesday, August 14th at 8 p.m. The documentary follows six stories of individuals and families choosing new ways to live and celebrate life in its finale. I urge you to watch this with your family to discuss a stage of life that has been alienated for too long in our culture. When we have the courage to talk about what scares us most, we no longer have to live in fear and denial of it but instead have the choices and freedom to fully embrace living at every stage with those we love. This documentary brings to life what my book, Parting Ways, is all about returning this intimate time of dying and death to the hands of individuals, families and communities. I had the honor of interviewing Dr. Robert Butler, father of gerontology, who concluded, “We’re so preoccupied with defending ourselves from the reality of death that we ignore the fact that human beings are alive until they are actually dead.” Well, not anymore.
We are in midst of the “End of Life Revolution” much like the sexual revolution when baby boomers dispelled the taboo of sex in America. They will surely disrupt the $16 billion a year funeral industry. In Alternate Endings, we meet people opening instead shutting the door on dying and death with family and community through living wakes, which I orchestrated for my mother in the last week of her life before she passed away of cancer. Some of the baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964, like my mother are trailblazing new ways to die for themselves, their parents and friends. Each time the baby boom confronts a new stage of life, societal shifts and cultural changes are sure to follow. So here we go. Below is a quick glimpse of the the documentary. If you do have the chance to watch this, please share your experiences with me.
ALTERNATE ENDINGS tells six stories of people nearing death and of family members of the recently deceased, who have chosen non-traditional end-of-life options and remembrances, from celebrations of life and living wakes, to green burials, extraterrestrial burials and more. Profoundly intimate and illuminating, the film explores what it means to be near death, either from age or terminal illness, and captures the healing power of honoring, giving thanks, and staying true to loved ones who have passed away.