DEATH, personal aspects

How does modern, technology-driven society deal with death? Mostly by profitably 'helping' others to avoid confronting it.

Because Nicaraguans - Latin American cultures - face death so very differently, dare I say, so much more maturely, it seems a fitting new forum topic. Death from the visible-to-all mayhem of wars is barely one generation removed from today's Nicaraguans. Putting the once-loved body in a box, covered with a flag &/or 2 meters under glorious marble, barely lessens death's sting.

Death is the ultimate personal experience. We've all been personally affected by a loved-one's death, or that of someone close to us, a friend, neighbor, co-worker. And we all must eventually face our own death. Part of becoming an adult is realizing and yes, knowing that this miracle, this present, our life will end. So how has it touched you, here vs there?

Please keep your comment personal. I will later add my impressions of both my families' (Nicaraguan & Stateside) dealings with death, but I must meditate first on the most recent one in our family, since its integration into my thinking is time-dependent.

Much could be written about the death-industries in the 'developed' world but I ask that you please shunt that into a different forum. What you know (conocer, experience) is more important that what you think you know (saber) IMO.

(Please God, no more web-pulled data dumps! It's not that I don't occasionally learn something from Jinotega's resident-authority-on-everything's web forays, now that NL's Sage of Jinotega is buried there, but it's wearing out my 'pg dn' button.)

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Death in Nicaragua.

Growing up in Nicaragua it seemed there was always a vela to go too. So far I have only experienced close deaths twice so far. I was very young for the first one, my younger brother, killed by a drunk driver. My brother was only 3 and a half, I was 10. Very shocking experience. One minute this beautiful boy full of life is laughing and playing the next he is laying on the street looking at me dying, yet he recognized me and managed to smile at me, at that point I took of running back to our house and ran inside and all I could say was Memito is dead and went to sleep. 15 years later it was my mother. I was not prepared for that, I don´t know if one gets used to not having your loved ones with you once they die, is not like when you are apart from your loved ones, in the back of your head there is always the notion that you will see them again, but the thing is that dying is so final , you know that you will never see and touch them again . Needless to say both deaths affected me greatly, At my brother´s it was very painful and very sad, lots of people mourned him. We had the vela in our house and the next day he was taken to his grandmother´s house before the church service and the funeral. A little boy or girl dying is a very heartbreaking experience. My mother died and is buried in Mexico city. She had a lot of friends but no one could attend her funeral but me. I was the only one there. All her friends and relatives held church services in her memory both here and the US. I´ve attended a couple of funerals in the states, and though the pain is there the whole affair seemed I don´t know as if the relatives were making the effort to show that yes we grieve the death but we won´t dwell on it too long. At least that is what I saw , maybe things are different privately. Either way to me saying goodbye to a loved one is very sad and a whole lot more when it is saying goodbye forever.


Because I could not stop for Death, He kindly stopped for me; The carriage held but just ourselves And Immortality. We slowly drove, he knew no haste, And I had put away My labor, and my leisure too, For his civility.

We passed the school, where children strove At recess, in the ring; We passed the fields of gazing grain, We passed the setting sun.

Or rather, he passed us; The dews grew quivering and chill, For only gossamer my gown, My tippet only tulle.

We paused before a house that seemed A swelling of the ground; The roof was scarcely visible, The cornice but a mound.

Since then 'tis centuries, and yet each Feels shorter than the day I first surmised the horses' heads Were toward eternity.

"Maybe, just once, someone will call me 'sir' without adding, 'you're making a scene." -Homer J. Simpson

My three data points

I agree with your premise that Nicaraguans seem to be a bit more adult in dealing with death. Or maybe the right word is really natural. I see part of it is the usano tendency to not really be able to say it like it is. Fatally injured is but one example but even the use of the word lost in the title of Rebecca's comment illustrates this tendency.

My Granfather

I was young, maybe about 10, when my grandfather died. I was there with his widow (no a blood relative, he had re-married after my grandmother had died) and my parents when they were making arrangements. I remember thinking it was like being with a used car salesman. There was a real up-sell campaign going on with guilt being used as leverage.

At the service I remember an assortment of people crying who had probably not visited him more than twice in the last ten years even though they lived less than an hour from his house. The solid thought that came out of this was that I felt rather than having a cry-in for relatives when you are dead, why not have a parade where you can stop traffic on your 18th or 21st birthday?

A Nicaraguan's Father

She worked for me plus is sorta family to a friend of Ana and I. As I remember, she was in Managua that day and when she got home at maybe 6PM, her father was dead. It was unexpected. He had been working that day, he came home, felt tired and and hour later, was dead.

Our friend found out first and called us. The three of us went to the vela (which I could explain but I believe it already is explained on the site). While this was about two hours after her father had died, he was in a coffin in the livingroom. At one point the coffin folks made some adjustments which involved lifting part of his body. I didn't find it disturbing but I realized it was not going to be something that would happen with a 30-person audience in the US.

I don't know if there are rules for a vela but, if there are, they are clearly not strict. Some people chatted, some sat silently. Some walked up to view the body, some did not. I do remember some stares when I walked over and hugged his daugher/my co-worker but no conversation. I only think there were stares because few people there knew who this Gringo was.

My Friend Jerry

My friend Jerry had, in practical terms, the opposite of AIDs. His T-cell count was increasing and eating muscle cells. (While he had worked as a research chemist at the Hanford reservation and was one of the people that put in time disassembling the SL-1 reactor at Idaho Falls, ERDA assured us that his condition could not be a result of exposure to radiation. Uh huh.) While he lived in Eastern Washington, he was in the hospital in Seattle in the final stages.

Eventually, we (that is really his long-term girlfriend/long-term friend of mine, his step-son and myself) made the unplug decision. it was sad but it was real. His body was not an issue -- cremation and returning the ashes in a box. None of us saw that as a big deal.

The big deal was that we wanted to do what he would have wanted us to do. Something that we felt he would have enjoyed. So, we had a Wake. Well, actually, two of them as he had lots of friends where he lived and lots of friends in Seattle.

For the most part, people got up and spoke about the good times they had had with Jerry. While I got the feeling it was all very strange for his co-workers, his real friends all got up and spoke about various adventures. After the first Wake, a few of us went over to his house and divided up his T-shirt collection, carefully deciding which shirt was appropriate for which one of us.

At the second Wake (at my house in Seattle) most of the people knew him not from work or Grateful Dead concerts but from the Seattle Film Festival. (I believe his girlfriend and I were the only people that attended both Wakes.) It was a very different crowd but a crowd that understood this was the type of thing he would have wanted us to do.

I, in no way, feel this was US typical. But, my friend was not US typical. I think it was exactly the right thing to do and I believe my Nicaraguan family is more likely to understand this than my (now lost) US family.

Lost my mother a number of years ago.

She had a terror of being senile and began taking some things that were anti-Alzheimers drugs along with coumatin. Massive cerebral hemorrhage, but lived/survived for a week before dying (unconcious). A couple of months earlier, she'd talked to her doctor about the Hemlock Society. When she was unconscious, My older younger brother was in town and had to make the decisions on turning off life support. She had been orphaned as a child, both parents, then her grandmother, and dreaded dependence. My father has no trouble at all with being dependent and had some trouble coming to terms with her feelings about all that transpired. He also was furious that she'd been kept alive any -- he'd touched her hand and when he felt it was cold, he knew she'd gone. Brainstem was about all that was left.

Here, I'm kinda stunned at what some people survived, what they saw. I think most of us surely have been to either the Leon or the Esteli museums of the Heros and Martyrs of the Revolution, regardless of our political sympathies.

A visiting friend and I went up to the Jinotega Cemetery on election day and met a woman whose son had died in the war, who was buried there, and she had tears in her eyes as she talked about it.

Sometime back, when I was protesting against the Vietnam War, I realized that when I was dead, whatever came after -- something, nothing -- how long I'd lived wouldn't matter. We weren't really in grave danger, but a handful of people had died in the protests, and nobody knew then that nothing would escalate. I wouldn't want to live as my father is still living -- near stone blind, bed-ridden -- and being here makes it unlikely that would happen as would being poor in the US. I don't see any reason to take undue chances, either. However, I don't know if my very aged self is going to share my current beliefs. The good death would be while doing something I enjoyed, minimal pain, before I was bedridden.

My grandfather said at one point that if he couldn't keep in mind that his wife had died (earlier that year), that he'd lived too long. He died himself about two weeks after his last birthday, an election day where he voted for the last time. The bad thing was the pain he had to deal with, but we had that one good day: his birthday, riding through the countryside, voting and talking to his friends after he voted.

I think North Americans are expected to get over a death in two weeks, or even quicker and have lost the custom of mourning and respecting the losses. I'm not as experienced with here as I was with deaths in the US, but having a day for visiting the dead officially strikes me as different from what happens in the US. People are in the cemetery on Sundays or even during the week in a way that I didn't see in the US as much. In the US, the dead are supposed to disappear.

Rebecca Brown

You Get Used

to death, and begin to realize that it's not so much the death, but whether it's appropriate, that matters. A child's death is always a tragedy; Grandpa ? Well, he had to go sometime.

After living a charmed life and not losing anyone close, I lost my younger son (not appropriate), both of Shelley' s parents within a week (they were old and had not treated their bodies well, but still got quite a few years), and then my mother, who was almost 93 (very appropriate, she was ready). All of this happened in less than a year. My mother had the best death of all: She went down for lunch, came back to her room to take a nap, and didn't wake up. I hope it was a good lunch . . .

Pain is MOSTLY managed these days, attitudes have changed dramatically, but there are anomalies, and it's something a caregiver has to watch out for. The hospice movement has been a blessing to many who have the misfortune of dying slowly.

Going out with your boots on, doing something you enjoy doing, is everyone's dream.