A Heroic Narrative for Death

I agree with Amanda Bennett that we need this: a way to think and talk about death as the heroic act it can be, and sometimes is. An accomplishment at the end of a life well-lived. A good death.

I’ve asked myself the very questions she asks in the video that follows: why is our thinking and our system of dealing with serious illness not built to accommodate our tenacious hope? What do we do with the stories of ourselves as fighters, as invincible, as survivors? And not just patients and their families, but medical professionals, too, and maybe especially. Can we embrace a new story, in which, as she describes it, we move eventually toward a “graceful retreat?”

Christine did, and her graceful retreat was every bit as courageous and sublime, as it was painful and heartbreaking. Like Ms. Bennett’s husband, Terence Foley, Kissie was a force of life that few could resist. Though no longer tangible, that force is still very much discernible.

As soon as I watched this video, I wanted to read the book about their story, “The Cost of Hope.” I waited, hesitant about my capacity for reading a vivid recollection about a cancer death so soon. I read it last month, and while it was part-investigative report, it was above all the story of their fierce love of each other, and of life.

In this TED Med talk, Ms. Bennett wonders aloud, and with deeply felt conviction, about a “noble path to dying,” a heroic narrative for letting go that could be the capstone to our beautiful lives.