- Harry Bliss | Rev. Diane Sullivan
An appreciation for life in the face of the inevitable is one thing we hope you'll take away from this edition of Seven Days. Our first-ever Death Issue tackles a range of topics related to the End and employs a variety of treatments, from somber to joyful.
There is no bigger mystery in life than death, and poets are no strangers to mystery. So we invited local writers to share their poems about death. As Burlington poet Ben Aleshire puts it in the intro to that collection, "Poems acknowledge death, wave to it, invite it up onto the porch to sit for a spell."
Willem Jewett wasn't a poet, but he did invite death to sit with him. In January, the Ripton resident ended his life using Vermont's so-called Death With Dignity Law. As a state legislator, Jewett was instrumental in the 2013 passage of that bill, which enables terminally ill Vermonters to die on their own terms. Calais' Stanley and Elaine Fitch likewise did just that in August, becoming the first-known Vermont couple to end their lives together using the law.
Not everyone is ready to go when Death calls. Steve Goldstein interviewed Vermonters about their surreal near-death experiences. In a companion piece, Robert Kiener sat down with former Boston Red Sox great Bill "Spaceman" Lee to talk about the septuagenarian pitcher's recent brush with death as he warmed up before a minor league game.
Like birth, death is big business. Ken Picard examined how new trends and attitudes are changing the funeral industry. Rachel Hellman plotted out how cremations and new burial alternatives are throwing dirt on the cemetery biz. Fewer people are being buried these days, in part because more are donating their bodies to science. Chelsea Edgar visited the University of Vermont's Robert Larner College of Medicine to learn how cadavers are selected and used.
It's never too early to learn about death. At New Village Farm in Shelburne, Melissa Pasanen watched kids learn about the life cycle by observing the slaughter of livestock.
Sorrow often follows death, but there are moments of comfort, too. In southern Vermont, the Hallowell singers perform at the bedsides of hospice patients, aiding both the dying and their families. Composer Matthew Evan Taylor found solace in a new work he wrote to honor his late grandmother. In an essay, comedian Annie Russell shares how she used humor to process grief when her parents died.
On a lighter note, Chris Farnsworth interviewed erstwhile Vermont filmmaker Allan Nicholls about the resurrection of Dead Ringer, his long-lost, quirky rock and roll film starring the late musician Meat Loaf .
Even the grim reaper can't escape the occasional mundanity of this mortal plane, as cartoonist Harry Bliss illustrates on the cover. His depiction of Death raking leaves is a good reminder to enjoy yourself while you're here. As Guy Lombardo once sang, "It's later than you think."