Life Before Death

In Western society, many have lost touch with the  spiritual aspect of death and dying. We do not like the idea of death.  It conjures up deep fear of the unknown, and it reminds us that we are ultimately at the mercy of life.  We put off thinking about it until it comes knocking at our door, calling for us or calling for a loved one.

We need to remember that death and life are partners, each providing a context for the other.   To understand death, a person must try to understand the purpose of life and the relationship between life and death. Life is a sacred journey which includes death.  The Christian mystic Simone Weil wrote, “[Death] is the instant when, for an infinitesimal fraction of time, pure truth, naked, certain, and eternal enters the soul.”   In other words, the moment of death is a “thin” moment in time.  It is a moment when one is between this life and the next, a moment when one moves more fully into the Mystery, naked of all pretense.

“The process of dying involves both the body and soul in the greatest transition we are ever called to make.”~ Megory Anderson ~ excerpt from  Sacred Dying: Creating Rituals for Embracing the End of Life

 German photographer, Walter Schels,and journalist, Beate LaKotta collaborated on a project entitled “Life Before Death.”  Together the duo asked  people who were very close to death  if they could go with them during their last weeks and days. The result is a series of insightful descriptions and photographic portraits that show the hopes and fears of the dying.

Laura Cumming reviewing the images for The Guardian/The Observer wrote the following: “Anyone who has ever been afraid of dying should see this show.  It is momentous, inspiring, cathartic.  It calls upon your full humanity.”  Please visit Life Before Death to see the images and to view the video that explains the intentions of the project.

Heiner Schmitz, age: 52 photograph by Schels


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