MAY 1994



                                 BY THOMAS G. LEDERER


          My Dearest Lorelei and Kristin:


              I guess you two know me as well as anyone and you realize


          that I am often better able to communicate in writing than I am


          with the spoken word.  Since the subject which I wish to discuss


          with you is one that is rather complex, I felt it might be best


          to start out with a letter, a letter to you my beloved daughters,


          Lorelei and Kristin.


              Since you know I have been taking a graduate course in death,


          dying, and bereavement, it probably won't surprise you when I


          tell you that the topic I wish to broach is death.


              Not a pleasant subject you say?  Not one that people like


          discussing you say?  In fact, a subject that many people will


          avoid discussing at all costs, you might say?  If you do indeed


          share those feelings about death, you most certainly would not be


          alone. Most people feel that way; but, in the framework of that


          denial, they are also avoiding an unavoidable phase of their


          lives. We all must and will experience death, some of us sooner,


          some of us later. The irony is that death is a very real fact of




                                 THE DENIAL OF DEATH


              Over the years, I have mentioned in many of our conversations a


            man named Scott Peck, the author of the book The Road Less


Traveled as well as the sequel work entitled Further Along the Road


Less Traveled.  He is looked upon with great reverence by people of my


generation who get stuck trying to make some sense out of a difficult


world. In his latter work, Dr. Peck devotes an entire chapter to death


and his prelude is a poem written by Carl Sandburg:




              "I am riding on a limited express, one of the crack trains


              of the nation.


              Hurtling across the prairie into blue haze and dark air go


              fifteen all-steel coaches holding a thousand people.


              (All the coaches shall be scrap and rust and all the men and


              women laughing in the diners and sleepers shall pass to




              I ask a man in the smoker where he is going and he answers:


              `Omaha.'" (Peck page 47)


Scott Peck believes that Sandburg's poem is a very "succinct in


addition, incisive summary of our attitude toward this largely


ignored subject: death."  (Peck page 47)


               He sees our Western Civilization as living in denial when it


    comes to dealing with death and this approach to one of life's most


    undeniable components leaves us unprepared and quite vulnerable


when we are faced with the prospects of emotionally dealing with


our own death or with the death of another.


              I can say without hesitation that one of the more delightful


          sounds ever to have reached my ears is your laughter, Lorelei,


          your hearty unconstrained reaction to something that strikes you


          as being funny.  I can recall that when you were a teenager you


          used to enjoy some of the dark-sided humor of the "Monty Python


           Flying Circus."  One of my personal favorites of their many


          routines was the one in which a pet shop owner is trying to


          convince a dissatisfied customer that the parrot he had bought is


          not dead.


              The pet shop owner contended that the bird was "merely


          resting," while the customer strongly disagreed, stating that,


          "...It's not resting, it's passed on.  This parrot is no more. It


          has ceased to be.  It has expired and gone to meet its maker. This


          is a dead parrot.  It is a stiff, bereft of life, it rests in


          peace. If you hadn't nailed it to its perch, it would be pushing


          up daisies.  It's run down the curtain and joined the choir


          invisible. This is an ex-parrot." (Chapman, et.al page 105)


              Many people don't realize that what Python made into comedy


          is the subconscious debate that goes on within ourselves as we


          euphemistically play with the concept of death.  We try not to


          dwell on the subject long enough to even psychologically own up


          to whether or not someone we know or love is merely resting or is


          indeed quite dead.


                                 DEALING WITH DEATH


              In Further Along the Road Less Traveled, Scott Peck


          discusses his life-long romance with death.


              "More than anything else, my romance with death has given me


          some sense of the meaningfulness of this life.  Death is the


          magnificent lover.  Like any great love, death is full of mystery


          and that's where much of the excitement comes from,  because, as


          you struggle with the mystery of your death, you will discover


          the meaning of your life." (Peck page 49)




                  In 1976, a gentleman named R.J. Koestenbaum actually came up


          with some very specific reasons about how death affects our


          perceptions of life in many beneficial ways:


              -It helps us savor life.


              -It provides an opposite by which to judge being alive.


              -It gives us a sense of real, individual existence.


              -It gives meaning to courage and integrity, allowing us to


          effectively express our convictions.


              -It provides us with the strength to make major decisions.


              -It reveals the importance of intimacy in our lives.


              - It helps us ascribe meaning to our lives retroactively,


          which is especially useful for older people.


              -It shows us importance of ego-transcending achievements.


              -It allows us to see our achievements as having


              significance. (Rando page 1)


              So says Mr. Koestenbaum...Try telling some of his ideas to


          someone facing open-heart surgery, chemotherapy, or a bone marrow


          transplant. It also may be difficult for many people to really


          step back from the frightening finality of life to look at death


          with such detached objectivity.


              Another man named Lifton, also with the initials R.J. came


          up with five modes via which we might better struggle with our


          own delicate mortality:


              The biological mode--we extend ourselves into the future


          through our children.  Our very gene and memories will be carried


          on in the projection of ourselves through our heirs.


              The social mode--our lives have direction and meaning if we


         can leave something worthwhile behind us.  This usually comes


          about through our work or creative endeavors.


              The religious mode--religion provides a clear future in an


          immortal hereafter.


              The natural mode--we are part of nature.  The decomposition


          of our bodies will nourish further growth in nature; we will not


          forever be destroyed because our spot in the cycle of the chain


          of life.


              The experiential transcendence mode--there are psychological


          states that are so intense that there is a feeling of being


          beyond the confines of ordinary life.  Time and death disappear.


          They can occur in religious or mysticism, in song, dance, battle,


          sexual love, or in the contemplation of artistic or intellectual


          creations; there is an extraordinary psychic unity and perceptual


          intensity in which there is no longer a restriction of the


          senses, including the awareness of mortality.  (Rando page 8.)


              Playing Devil's Advocate with Mr. Lifton's modes, his


          biological approach to life after death does not comfort those


          adults who have chosen not to have their own biological children.


          In reference to the social modality, Scott Peck contends that


          within a few generations, our names and our works will soon be




              Playing Devil's Advocate with religious concepts is a more


          difficult proposition.  In our lifetimes, no one had ever come


          back from the hereafter to prove or disprove this belief in life


          after death.  Faith in the messianic mission of Jesus of Nazareth


          two thousand years ago is the foundation of reassurance for a


          life after this one.


              From the so-called natural perspective, some may not find


          too much comfort in knowing that they will spend all eternity as


          celestial compost.  In a television interview with Bill Moyers,


          the famed author Joseph Campbell stated his belief that such


          experiential feelings as stated by Mr.  Lifton are merely


          electronic impulses, hormonal responses, physiological


          aberrations echoing within one's own physical body.


              As you may have guessed, I am inclined to find the


          transcendent of Lifton's modes appealing in its path toward


          understanding the human psyche, our concept of the human soul,


          and that of God in each us and the role it plays in our journey


          through life and death and eternity.  However, it is more common


          for people throughout most civilizations in our world today to


          reach out for comfort found in the more tangible mode of


          religious belief.


                                 DEATH AND RELIGION


              While the Hebrew Scriptures (also known as the Old


          Testament, which is a name with a judgment somewhat built into


          it, i.e. things that are old may not be as good as something "New")


          are very complex and diverse Scripture, there is a pervading


          message that God protects His people from pointless suffering.


          Judaism interprets those writings as a message to a "chosen


          people" about their insulation from God's wrath against the rest


          of the world.


              While there is considerable dispute among various Jewish


          factions, the thirteen principles of Jewish faith as selected by


          Moses Maimonides in the 12th century concluded that a Messiah


          other than Jesus would indeed come and resurrect the dead.  Not


          all branches of Judaism interpret life as a temporary stop in an


          eternal voyage.  Other Jewish prayers suggest that we live on in


          the minds and memories of others.


One of the most dramatic differences between Christianity


          and the Jewish religion from which it sprang forth is their


          varying concept of life after death.  Early Christians parted


          company with the Jewish faith when they saw Jesus Christ as the


          Messiah who brought his followers a message of eternal life, a


          judgment day, and impending resurrection of the dead.  This is


          the predominant message throughout the New Testament, the


          Scriptural successor to the Hebrew writings.


              I believe that this Christian message of hope, of a very


          specific theological promise of eternal life is so powerful that


          it accounts for the enduring strength that Christianity has


          exhibited down through 2000 years; that it accounts for the faith


          that men would kill or die for; that it accounts for the blind,


          prejudiced, tunnel-visioned perspective that some Christians have


          toward any other belief systems; that it accounts for a religious


          view of life that can prompt many to dramatically alter their


          life styles.  It was not until recent years that Christian


          theology even entertained the idea that it was possible for


          non-Christians to find heavenly respite in God's eternal plan.


              The Old and New Testaments provide numerous comforting


          passages that are read to assuage the fear of death:


              "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of


          death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and


          your staff, they comfort me."

                                      Psalm 23.4



"I tell you the truth that whoever believes in me has


          everlasting life."


                             John 6:47


              "He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no


          more death or mourning or crying or pain for the old order of


          things has passed away.


                             Revelations 21:4


              "But your dead will live; their bodies will rise.


              You who dwell in the dust, wake up and shout for joy


              Your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give


              birth to her dead.


                             Isaiah 26:19 (TheJerusalemBible)


              Those followers of Islamic beliefs do not bend in their


          contention that God watches over each and every human being and


          makes judgments on their behavior.  To the followers of


          Mohammed's teachings, there will indeed be a day of judgment and


          the righteous will be rewarded and the wicked will suffer eternal


          damnation in hell.


              The Hindu religion, the beliefs shared by almost a half a


          billion of the world's population, is also about 2000 years old.


          It sees the human being as having a soul, which is God or is like


          God and does not die.  It is born into physical, earthly life


          repeatedly (perhaps in different life forms)until it properly


          reflects Divine characteristics.  At that point, it becomes part


          of God and no longer is re-born into the physical world, a theory


          of reincarnation shared with Buddhism.


              With no disrespect intended toward this sacred Hindu or


          Buddhist belief structure, this perspective on life was utilized


          in the movie "Defending Your Life" with Albert Brooks and Meryl


          Streep. It is also quite similar to the theories of one of my


          favorite Christian theologians Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the


          Jesuit anthropologist who speculated earlier in this century that


          humans are part of an evolutionary process in which we are slowly


          gravitating toward the "Omega Point," the "Christosphere" where we


          emulate the perfection of Christ.  Along the way, the rocky road


          for humanity will be filled with pain, death, and suffering all


          of which can be viewed as an essential part of human refinement.


              It is difficult to nail down a specific belief system for


          some of the so-called New Age religions.  That answer there lies


          somewhere between UFO's, crystals, and wheat germ.


                                ELIZABETH KUBLER-ROSS


              We can speculate and philosophize all we want about death


          but one thing is certain:  regardless of how centered or stable


          or aware one may be in one's very own existence, death causes




              In 1969, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross wrote a book entitled On


          Death and Dying.  In that pioneering work, she dealt head-on with


          the implications of death and the phases that she believed people


          went through when they were faced with the imminent prospect of


          their own death.


              Not everyone has embraced Kubler-Ross' dissection of these


          deep human emotions, as suggested by this scene from Bob Fosse's


          1979 film, "All That Jazz:”


              "There's this chick from Chicago, man, namedElizabeth


          Kubler-Ross with a dash," pontificates a stand-up comedian in


          1960's hip dialect.  "And she, without actually having died


          herself, has been able to sum up the process of dying into five


          levels: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance."


          (Aurthur, Fosse)


              The buzz words she utilized to delineate her process are


          almost self-explanatory.


              The person who is harboring a terminal illness will deny the


          symptoms, the implications, even the diagnosis to protect the


          psyche from having to deal with the painful truth.  And despite


          what you may hear, denial is not always such a terrible thing. It


          often allows a person to cope with a monumental problem until


          better able to deal with it more forthrightly.


              Upon accepting one's fate, anger sets in.  Why me?  Why now?


          Why not someone else?  Those close to the dying person become an


          easy target for blame and responsibility for what lies ahead.


          God can often become unrelentingly vilified.


              In the film "The End,"  Burt Reynolds plays a terminally ill


          man who decided to kill himself by swimming out to sea.  After he

          begins to tire, he suddenly changes his mind.  The dialogue


    cleverly depicts the kind of bargaining with God that goes through the


    mind of someone much closer to the end of their life


          than the beginning.  The script had the character willing to give


          up his many women and the profits from his shady real estate


          dealings if he were allowed to live.  The percentage of the


          profits going to charity kept getting smaller as he got closer to


          the shore.


              Humans facing death will bargain similarly with themselves,


          with their doctors, their family, with caregivers, and with God


          as a source of comfort and in an attempt to grab control over


          something over which there is none.


              Depression very often sets in with the realization that we


          are not in control of our own destinies.  Almost like after a


          ferocious fist fight or a violent argument, when participants


          have reached the point of exhaustion, there is often a moment of


          resignation to the fact that there is nothing more to be gained


          from the battle and that acceptance is the only recourse.  Such


          is the situation with someone who has denied, seethed, bargained,


          sulked over their impending death.  They have no other choice but


          to accept their fate, that is, unless they are of the breed that


          will die the way they have lived, go out kicking and scratching,


          and struggle to the very end.

              Further examination of the theories of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross


          demonstrate that her five-step process can be applied to losses


          other just impending death.  The same process might apply to


          someone surviving the loss of a loved one to illness and death;


          or the loss of a mate through divorce; or even something as


          mundane as the loss of one's job, or a child growing up and


          leaving home.


                                  THE GRIEF PROCESS


              When an appropriate amount of time and attention are not


          devoted to the grief process, grief can become "unresolved."  In


          her book Grief, Dying, and Death, Therese A. Rando discusses the


          various forms of unresolved grief.


              "Given the multitude of factors that combine to determine


          people's unique grief responses, it is not surprising that there


          are a number of variants on the typical process of grief," said


          Dr. Rando, aRhode Islandclinical psychologist.  "These variants


          are termed unresolved because there has been some disturbance of


          the normal progress towards resolution." (Rando page 59)


              In her book, she spans the realm of unresolved grief,


          touching upon absent grief, in which there simply is no grief;


          inhibited grief in which grieving is internalized and may lead to


          somatic illnesses; delayed grief in which denial takes the place


          of real grief; conflicted grief in which two diverse forms of


          grieving (e.g. anger and guilt) prevent the bereaved person from


          resolving the loss; chronic grief where the mourner doesn't seem


          to make progress in working out the loss; unanticipated grief in


          which the loss is so sudden a person can't even begin the grief


          process in what may be deemed as a normal time span; and


          abbreviated grief can actually be a short but fulfilled grieving


          process because either the bereaved was well prepared for the


          loss or moved into another life situation where the loss was


          minimized. (Rando pages 60-62)


              When various losses pile up in one's life and the grief


          piles up without it being resolved, a cumulative grief response


          may result.  Just as everyone grieving process must be looked


          upon as "normal and unique" (i.e., there are no hard and fast rules


          about how people will react to a loss,) we all may go through


          periods where the losses seem to keep accumulating.


              This is especially true for adults as they age and, more and


          more, one by one, they see people that they know, sometimes


          people very close to them, pass on.  But it must be remembered


          that young people also have their own very special cumulative


          grief response that can vary dramatically with age and their


          ability to understand what is going on.  A best friend moving


          away, the death of a grandparent, or an emotional divorce between


          their parents can leave a child scarred and unable to understand


          or communicate their grief.


              Therefore, at any age, when losses pile up and perhaps


          overlap, we may be mourning more than one loss at a time or we


          may be mourning one loss when we think we're mourning another.


          Hence, the oft heard phrase in the study of the bereavement


          process, "Not just this death."



                                  DIVORCE AND DEATH


              As I mentioned in reference to Elizabeth Kubler-Ross'


          process being applicable to losses other than death, it is very


          often-used in association with another of society's more painful


          losses, that of divorce.  In fact, some counselor's, when they


          are dealing with clients going through divorce, may actually


          equate divorce with a death.  But is that really a fair and


          accurate approach?


              There is no question that people having gone through a


          divorce will experience many of the same emotions as with a


          death. There is an unalterable, undeniable change in a household,


          a family, the closest of all relationships.  There are voids,


          gaps, pain, and loss as in death.  And, most importantly, the


          people going through a divorce can often reinforce the death


          analogy themselves as layers of depression build upon each other.


              In a way, divorce can be more tortuous than death.  The


          people involved are still alive, often still communicating with


          each other, often still see each other, whether that be on good


          terms or not.  As in death, people can go through intense denial,


          especially in divorces in our American civilization in which


          people really seem to have great difficulty saying good-bye.


              Your Mother and I went months after our separation calling


          each other first thing in the morning, last thing at night, going


          out for dinner on our anniversary or other special occasions


          because neither of us wanted to deal directly with the intense


          pain of separation.  We knew that our splitting apart was the


          result of some very unusual circumstances and there was a desire


          on both of our parts for the other former mate not to suffer


          any more pain than already experienced.  But we did get to the


          point where we realized that such an approach was highly


          unrealistic and was just prolonging the inevitable.


              In her book Necessary Losses, Judith Viorst discusses


    "The breakup of a marriage is a loss like the death of a


          spouse, and will often be mourned in closely parallel ways, " she


          said. "Divorce evokes more anger than death, and it is, of


          course, considerably more optional.  But the pining and the


          sorrow and the yearning can be as intense.  The denial and


          despair can be as intense.  The guilt and the self-reproach can


          be as intense.  And the feeling of abandonment can be even more


          intense." (Viorst page 290)


              In her work, The Anatomy of Bereavement, Beverly Raphael


          states that the physical and emotional costs can be higher than


          those imposed by a spouse’s death, because, "the bereaved must


          mourn someone who has not died." (Viorst page 290)


              Judith Viorst says in her book that she has heard clients


          state that they would rather have been widowed than divorced


          because death "would not have tangled them in continuing fights


          over property and children, in feelings of jealousy, in feelings


          of failure." (Viorst page 290)


              As you look back at some of thing different facets of the


          mystery that we call death, I think it is fair to say that


          divorce is not a death, that everyone is alive, although a bit


          emotionally worst for wear; but  everyone is still capable of


          getting back on their feet and starting anew, perhaps with new



          hopes, new dreams, perhaps in ways that they never dreamed of the


          first time around.


              In fact, that perspective may also apply to the way it will


          be after we leave our present existence and ascend the next


          ladder rung in our journey through the cosmos.


              With eternal love,










          Aurthur, Robert Alan and Fosse, Bob.  "All That Jazz,"


              Hollywood/New York:  ColumbiaPictures Industry, 1979.


          Chapman, Graham, et.al. The Complete Monte Python Flying Circus



              New York:  Pantheon Books, 1989.


          JerusalemBible, The. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1966.


          MacGregor, Geddes. Dictionary of Religion and Philosophy, New


              York:  Paragon House, 1989.


          Peck, M. Scott. Further Along the Road Less Traveled,New York:


              Random House, 1993.


          Rando, Therese A.  Grief, Dying, and Death,Chicago:  Research


              Press, 1984.


          Viorst, Judith.  Necessary Losses,New York: Fawcett Press, 1986.