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Palm Coast Thursday, Nov. 6, 2014 4 years ago

Talking about death

by: Shanna Fortier Associate Editor

Death is something most people don’t like to talk about, myself included. We don’t like to think of our friends or family members dying — or about our own inevitable deaths. Most people don’t even use the word “died.” They prefer to say someone has “passed on” or “gone home to Jesus.”

The Associated Press Stylebook has an entry on death, and I have always found it to be one of the harshest rules. The entry tells us not to use euphemisms. In AP writing it is simply “death” or “die.”

As I sit at my desk to write about this topic, I have to admit I am a little distracted and overwhelmed with emotion. The timing of this piece has come at a time when I have two different circles of friends who are grieving.

Three sisters, some of my dearest friends I have known since childhood, mourn the sudden death of their father. He was a wonderful man who brought light with him everywhere he went. When I think of him, I immediately see a photograph I took at one of their weddings; him tearing up the dancing floor, grinning ear-to-ear, waving a napkin in one hand. I can’t help but think of them and their family during this hard time.

The other group grieves for their friend who has gone missing during a diving trip in the Florida Keys. Matthew Milton, 32, is a Flagler Palm Coast High School graduate and was on the wrestling team my stepfather coached. He has been missing since Saturday, and as of Wednesday, a search was still underway. Friends and family gathered Wednesday evening at the Flagler Beach Pier for a prayer vigil for his safe return.

One local group of women is embracing the idea that death is part of life in its Death Over Dinner group, which meets once a month to discuss the taboo topic over food.

The group was formed when Deborah Susswein found an article in the AARP bulletin. The first meeting came with video resources for those attending. They talked about how everyone is going to die one day and how other cultures look at death.

Each month, the group of five women has been meeting to discuss a variety of topics surrounding death. They have heard from an estate-planning attorney, learned about wills, made a bucket list, wrote their own eulogy and letters to someone or something they have lost. On the night I sat in on the group, the topic of discussion was the Death with Dignity Act, which has been making national news with terminally-ill cancer patient Brittany Maynard.

Susswein said talking about death and getting it out in the open is important because it’s a part of life.
“We’re talking about death, but the other side is celebrating life,” she said.

The group has been considering expanding into a larger community group while also keeping the intimate group. The great thing, Susswein said, is there can be hundreds of groups like this meeting in the same community.


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