May 13, 2014

Sympathy Project joins Leverton & Sons for Open Day

‘Taking the fear out funerals’: Leverton & Sons Open Day, Sun May 18th, 
noon to 5pm

Leverton & Sons will be opening their doors for the first time in 225 years 
with a full day of fascinating talks, art and activities. At 1:00pm the topic 
is ‘Documenting Death’: three photographers, Briony Campbell, Priscilla 
Etienne and Miranda Hutton will show us how photography enters the intimate 
world of death. At 3:00 we’ll be asking the question; “What on earth are 
we doing with death?’: philosopher academics David Waters (‘The School 
of Life’) and Mark Cousins (Columbia University and The Architectural 
Association) will be discussing how in a secular age we can manage death 
and loss. 

Additionally you can meet a funeral director, explore a photography exhibition, 
watch documentary films, see Jake the Poet perform, delve into the ledgers
of noteable funerals (George Orwell, Sylvia Plath and Anna Freud among 
others), take a limousine ride, enjoy the BBQ food, and learn how to carry a 
coffin properly!

All welcome. This is a free event (including free BBQ) at Leverton & Sons - 
212 Eversholt Street NW1 1BD, near Mornington Crescent tube. Part of Dying 
Matters Awareness Week.

For more information contact Leverton & Son: Lori MacKellar 0207 387 

6075 or Mark Wilcox on 07808580668

Nov 18, 2013

Departures (Okuribito)

If there is ever any one movie to see on the subject of death, let it be this one - Departures with director Yojira Takita. Absolutely Stunning. 

Nov 13, 2013

Our Artistic Legacy

Most of us are toiling away at daily work that doesn’t seem as important to us as the ambitious dreams that we have for ourselves. We are convinced we’re not living up to our potential; that there is a better part of ourselves that just hasn’t expressed itself yet.
Until the day our lives are over.

And what’s left is that daily work.

Whatever it is. Whatever we gave it.
- Nancy Updike on This American Life summing up an interview about artistic legacy: 


Sympathy Project: Andriana's Story

What is the Sympathy Project?

Sympathy Project: The Aim & Application

Jul 24, 2013

My Gift of Grace - by The Action Mill

When you think of a game with cards something like Trivial Pursuit or Blackjack might come to mind but with My Gift of Grace, the Action Mill has completely redefined what a card game can be - and ultimately just how much it can mean to your life. 

This completely innovative startup product initiates conversation around one of the most difficult to discuss topics - end of life wishes. At a time when the trend is to try and digitize our memories and conversations about death on the internet, My Gift of Grace does the exact opposite by creating a non-threatening way for us to discuss these issues with our family in person. 

My Gift of Grace is an extremely important tool which I hope becomes a standard for end of life communication. 

If you would like to support this product, please visit the kickstarter page here:

Jun 9, 2013

Spirit Houses by Steve Fleitz

Circus Tent with votive candle inside

There is no one I know of who is more qualified to make a spirit house than my good friend - aka amazing ceramic artist - Stephen Fleitz; he has dodged a life ending bullet more times than a puffy cat on youtube. From barely being smuggled out of Rwanda during their horrific civil war to completely reversing the direction of a terminal diagnosis given to him by well renowned doctors and then everything in between, he lives having touched the fringes of the spirit world. 

Steve recently took an incredible trip to Bhutan with friends that challenged him to tap into his other worldly senses and bring to life a modern version of the traditional Spirit House commonly found in Southeast Asian countries. Having his inspiration in full blom after visiting the temples of the region, Steve soon got to work in his studio in Los Angeles to produce two thoroughly original and charming houses. 

Traditionally spirit houses, usually built in the form of a temple, are placed outside a home or business and offer an official residence for the spirits so they don't become pesky little ghosts in your own house - knocking over pots and pans or leaving unexplained chilly pockets of air. 

As a modern approach to this tradition, I absolutely love the idea that these houses can exist inside or outside, take on any kind of structure or design and that they are simply a home for the spirits of your family. Having lost both parents and many other family members this concept is nothing short of poetic to me. Enough so to place a commission.

Steve is currently accepting commissions and can work from any design -  anyone up for Frank Lloyd Wright Spirit House?

Please email Andriana at if you would like more information or are interested in commissioning your very own spirit house.

May 23, 2013

I Just Found Motionpoems!

I am nearly standing right beside myself I love this so much. Motionpoems - pairing poets and video artists together. Brilliant.

PANKEY | OLSON & SAUNDERS | “Cogitatio Mortis”

Written in the midst of a deep depression, Eric Pankey’s “Cogitatio Mortis” (Latin for “I think of death”) is translated by video artists Jeff Saunders and Scott Olson. Each scene, anchored, “measures the same hour” differently.

May 22, 2013

Traces of You - Places You Went by Zubin Pastakia

How to organize, preserve and extract meaning from the digital footprint left by the deceased is a topic of growing interest and complexity. How on earth does one make sense of all the tweets, photos, status updates, blog posts and more? And is it possible to mine this data field to create a tangible memorial? 

In his project Traces of You-The Places You Went, Zubin Pastakia uses location as an anchor and reference point for digital snippets of someone's life while cleverly translating that into not only a physical object, in this case a tapestry, but a process of active participation by those left to grieve. 

This has to be one of the best concepts for the fusion of digital life, physical world and personal memories I have come across. 

"“The places you went…” is a tapestry stitched from the data memories of the departed. Using GPS trails & geotagged data, the deceased are remembered through their travels and trajectories. Open and available data is collected from multiple sources, generating a memory-trail to be stitched by the bereaved. The material practice of stitching serves as ceremony and observance as well as a tangible record of meaningful location-based data."

May 15, 2013

Radiolab - After Life

Does the soul have weight? Do dogs have souls? Is life over when your heart stops beating? Can the dead play tennis?

If you have a burning curiosity about any of those questions then this entertaining and thought provoking episode on the After Life from Radiolab is a must listen.

Mar 19, 2013

designboom competition

Wow. This is serious. It looks as though the design around death is finally getting its day. Could we actually be on the precipice of real progress? Could we actually start to see our death rituals become aligned to our current culture? Could we actually start to see conceptual ideas like the Capsula Mundi become real products in the marketplace? Well, if Richard Meier on a judging panel and 25,000 euros as a grand prize is any indication then I say the transformation has begun. 

The deadline is Wednesday April 17th so all you great designers out there - get to work!

designboom - Design for Death

01 - Introduction to the DESIGN FOR DEATH

What is the future of deathcare?
Caring for the dead is an important part of any society, and how it is done reflects the prevailing culture.
As societies evolve, the customs and traditions surrounding funerals and memorialization also change.

How can design shape the deathcare of tomorrow?
Changing demographic, social and technological trends have new
implications on death and dying and the way families remember and honor their loved ones.
For example, there is an increased interest in environmentally-friendly funerals and burials
and the creation of online memorials. This shifting consciousness underscores
the need for new interpretations of the way we deal with death and dying.

Are there design-inspired innovations and creations that will transform
the way we think about and deal with death and dying today and in the future?

How can design change the way we say goodbye?
Instead of morbid occasions, funerals can be celebrations of lives lived and memories created.
How can funeral/deathcare objects or rites help the bereaved grieve their loss and begin healing?
Can technology bring comfort to the bereaved and help them grieve their loss?

Feb 21, 2013

Patter Hellstrom - Grief Path

I am thrilled to have just come across this stunning piece by Patter Hellstrom whereby she charts four years of significant personal loss and translates her experience into an undulating line of colorful brushstrokes. 

Feb 1, 2013

Mariko Mori, Rebirth

Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Mariko Mori's new exhibit at London's Royal Academy is absolutely mesmerizing. Blurring the boundaries between visible and invisible dimensions, she creates a convincing example of a world which might exist just beyond our normal perception. A world that feels just as you might imagine in an afterlife. But enter at your own risk because Mori's high tech dreamscape that pays homage to ancient cultures and a connectedness to the earth can leave you feeling lightheaded and dreamy for the rest of the day.  

Here is a great excerpt from the RA Magazine Winter 2012, written by Rachel Campbell-Johnston:

‘Rebirth’ is timed to coincide with the winter solstice, she says, which this year, according to certain ancient calendars, will either mark the end of our world or the birth of a new era. ‘The exhibition will take the form of a journey,’ says Mori. It will begin with a great glass monolith – ‘like a Celtic standing stone’ – called Tom Na H-iu II (2006), named after a mythical Celtic realm where the souls of the dead linger for a hundred years, awaiting their eventual rebirth. To guide the returning souls back to Earth, the ancient Celts created special monuments and stelae that were intended as places for spiritual transmigration. Mori’s monolith will glow with vaporous pinks and otherworldly yellows, ghostly greens and pastel blues. The colours are constantly changing because the LED lights within them are linked via the internet to a computer at the Kamioka Observatory in Japan, an underground cosmic ray research station which monitors the primal, low-energy electronic particles known as neutrinos that are emitted in vast quantities during the explosive death of a star. The changing light patterns in Mori’s monolith will respond directly to their presence. And since these neutrinos are essential to life, coalescing once again to become a part of anything from new stars to the earth and the water of our planet to our own bodies, our freshly heightened awareness of them will also alert us to the fact that, as Mori puts it, ‘we are part of a whole, part of the life cycle of the entire universe.’

Jan 27, 2013

The Race Grows Sweeter Near Its Final Lap, NYT Modern Love by Eve Pell

Illustration: Brian Rea

Very rarely do I get choked up when watching movies or reading, but every once in a while something comes along that makes me run for the box of tissues. This week's Modern Love article by Eve Pell did just that. By the end I was weeping in equal measures sadness and happiness; sad for the obvious loss but so happy for two people who weren't afraid to touch love. I hope you enjoy this story as much as I did.

The Race Grows Sweeter Near Its Final Lap, by Eve Pell

Sam and I dated for two years. Then, when I turned 70 and he 80, we had a joint 150th birthday party and announced our engagement. We married a year later.

We came from very different backgrounds. Sam, a Japanese-American who had been interned in the camps during World War II, worked his way through college and was happily married to his Japanese-American wife for more than 40 years until her death. I grew up as a fox-hunting debutante whose colonial New York ancestors were lords of the manor of Pelham. Typical of my much-married family, I had been divorced twice.
We belonged to the same San Francisco-area running club. He was a rarity — a charming, fit, single man of 77. I wanted to get to know him better.

Jan 25, 2013

Spain's Transcendent Funeral Home Design: Tonatorio Leon

When it comes to progressive funeral home design, Spain stands out as a clear leader. This Tonatorio, meaning funeral home in Spanish, located in the city of Leon, is nothing short of poetic. With its main structure built underground, emulating a sort of modern day tomb with light, and a shallow pool as roof which reflects the sky and clouds above, BAAS architects have set the stage for a transcendent experience. 

Jan 21, 2013

Finally: Healing Architecture

Can the design of a hospital room actually affect the health of patients? 

Yes Yes and Yes! This great article by Russ Mitchell in Fast Company details how changes in healthcare policy and payment structure in the US is paving the way for good design to be considered instrumental to improving patient experience, potentially reducing the overall cost of care. For anyone that has spent enough time in hospitals, fighting the stench and grime of outdated, barely functional rooms along with neighbors who wail through the night or watch incessant t.v, this change couldn't be happening fast enough. 

The last couple of decades, however, have produced a large body of research into the environmental and architectural effects on patient health, much of it peer-reviewed and appearing in scientific and medical journals. In 2005, a team at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center studied the effect of sunlight on the recovery of patients who'd just had spinal surgery. Comparing patients on brighter and darker sides of a room, the experiment concluded that sunlight significantly reduced both pain and the need for analgesic medication. Dozens of other studies have reached similar conclusions on patient exposure to nature and art, classical music, colored walls, and the presence of family members. And starting in 2014 up to 30% of a hospital's Medicare quality score, which influences a hospital's payments, will be based on patient satisfaction.

Jan 11, 2013

Pet Sympathy Cards: Even Spot Can't Catch a Design Break

Since i'm knee deep in the exploration and analyzation of sympathy cards I thought I would share some true gems from the animal kingdom. What's interesting about pet sympathy, which differs from humans, is the visual representation of an actual animal - and a photographic one to boot. Actually a majority of the cards depict a photograph, usually with an animal staring point blank at you. That seems like it can get pretty tricky. I mean, is it okay to send a card with a pug on it to someone who lost a poodle? Is a dog card a dog card regardless of breed? And is it strange to receive or to send a card with a photo of someone else's pet on it? Is that pet alive or dead? You will never know. But you can be assured that if you have a pet and it dies you will likely have a nice photo pile of random animals.

With human sympathy, visual representations of people are largely unheard of - we only see the things people leave behind: footprints in the sand, empty chairs, empty baby shoes. Pictures of people have been replaced with flowers, doves and sunsets. And while I think there is definite room to look at that norm and challenge it artistically, I would stop short of a point blank photo of a stranger staring out from a card because that would be just plain weird. 

The animals get to go to someplace called Rainbow Bridge. I was wondering what that might have looked like until I arrived at the card below.

Behold the sight! It's rainbow bridge!
Once you cross you might find this angel pug who looks like it might have died at its sweet sixteenth birthday party.

And this guy here looks like he might bite your hand if you pick up the card.

Here's one for all of you who lost a...a...a gerbil? a meerkat? a garden mouse? Not quite sure what that is.

Ah, it's a Michelangelo reproduction. 

Dec 6, 2012

Seriously Funny - Tig Nataro's Cancer Stand Up

Getting cancer, losing a parent, ending a relationship. Tig gives us the rare opportunity to laugh about situations we are told we never should. Since most of us have dealt with one, two or all three of those heavy topics, I highly recommend downloading her full half hour performance from itunes for a cathartic listen.

Nov 24, 2012

We Need to Talk About Sympathy Cards

May Your Sorrow Pass Gently

I can still remember that card distinctly, even five years after my mothers death. It stands out because, at the time, after wading through a pile of manufactured sentiments - opening card upon card that read Sorry for Your Loss or May Memory Comfort You, all printed in mandatory cursive, over backgrounds of technicolor rainbows, flittering butterflies, burning candles and babbling brooks - I just snapped. Do Not Patronize Me, I thought. My sorrow is not a bowel movement. My sorrow is not a kidney stone. Nothing here is passing gently.

My agitation was in no way directed at the people who sent those cards. Not in the least. I appreciated the gesture immensely. They were only trying to acknowledge my loss in the best way they knew how, using the card as a form of communication, a way to reach out. It was not their fault all the market offered them was either an intimidating blank space in which to write something or pre-packaged sentiments such as:

To everything there is a season...
May you find strength and healing in the memories of the life you shared. 

As if my mother died because she simply fell out of season; a color from last year's collection, a sour grape on the vine.

When people hear news of a death the common reaction is what do I do? what do I say? This gives the sympathy card a great opportunity as a means for expression, a simple way to combine the initial reaction into a meaningful form of communication. But if this card is any indication of where the industry stands in 2012 and what is available to us, than this is very much a missed opportunity.

I'm Sorry, and sad.
For a time your home will not be the same, but in time joy will return in their honor.
My Condolences.

This card, which should be downright illegal to send to anyone who just lost a baby, is a good reminder of how much we need to innovate the images and sentiments around death.

Nov 14, 2012

Funeral parlour in Aalen, Germany by C18 Architekten BDA

I didn't want to leave the last post on good design lingering without an anchor so here is another from my Good Design Archive - the beautiful and calm funeral parlour in Aalen, Germany. Way to go C18 Architects for creating a space that allows people to grieve in a space that feels supportive and comforting. 

For more info - Daily Tonic Article

Death Deserves Good Design

When I tell people I am creating a business that will hopefully start to modernize the design around death - specifically the images, words and communication experience - the usual response, after their eyes sort of drift off for a few ponderous seconds, is "Huh. I never thought of that." 

And why woud you ever really think about it unless you have had to personally enter that space. Products or services for death are not something you see advertised in the metro on your way to work. Death doesn't have popular brands, celebrity endorsements or reality television shows. Death products don't pop up for sale at Christmas market stalls or as discounted Groupon offers to your inbox. 

Death is completely ubiquitous - people are dying everywhere, everyday, all around us - and yet it reamins painfully invisible all at the same time. Only when you are brought to engage with it in some way - perhaps organizing a funeral or sending condolences - will you realize how out of tune death remains from current culture, as if we have quarantined it in some shoddy back office from the 70's. 

It's time to bring it out of the shadows; to start creating good, thoughtful design around death and sympathy and apply this to our online and physical worlds to help us engage in a more meaningful exchange during difficult times. Art, design, language - when carefully crafted - become powerful tools for human interaction. It is happening in every other industry and it is time for death to join the ranks.  

My vision is that we turn stock standard into astounding.

Nov 8, 2012

What Does a Funeral Invitation Look Like in 2012?

As many patient friends and family know, behind the scenes of this blog I have been working hard on a project to modernize not only the images surrounding death - that's right, no more doves, footprints in the sand or forest paths that lead nowhere - but also the communication, which in 2012 inevitably includes technology. 

After the death of my mother in 2007 I was surprised to see how limited my options were for online funeral invitations that were simple, designed well and had all the important information that guests would need. There were an abundance of wedding sites but at the time a google search offered me nothing by way of funerals.

In the past few years that space has filled with a handful of memorial sites that continue to churn out the same cliche images with few to no tools to relay the important, practical details of the event itself. Instead I am guided to upload songs and videos, post memories and collect virtual flowers. I am to fill out timelines and answer questions like 'Who was Patty's childhood best friend?' or 'What was Patty's favorite travel destination?' 

Are you serious? Is this the modern online funeral invitation? 

Music, videos and my mother's favorite travel destination were just about the last things on my mind when having to plan and prepare for her funeral in just four days time. I needed to get people locations, times, dates and other instructions. And yet, I wanted it in some way to feel personal and reflect my mother. I wanted it to be from me, not a funeral home. I wanted to have some choice in the images which represented her and I wanted those to be modern. 

I realized at the time it would be jarring enough to not only learn of her death but be sent an email with a link to a site that was basically an online invitation to her funeral.  So it was really important that that invitation linked to the guests in a way that felt unique and respectful of our situation. In the end I had to make my own.  

There is no other event where the efficiency of technology is more useful than when organizing a funeral. Weddings and birthdays can all be planned for but funerals are events where getting information out quickly, many times unexpectedly and under great duress, is key. There will be time for videos, songs and timelines later.    

Aug 30, 2012

Sad News Like a Warm Hug Goodbye - NYT Modern Love

Image: Brian Rhea
Story by Lucy Schulte Dazinger
Published in The New York Times on August 9, 2012

WHEN friends and colleagues heard that my father had died in an unexpected drowning — on Father’s Day, no less — they couldn’t believe I was at work the next day, that I went swimming in the morning, that I was not at home weeping.

They said: “You are in shock. ...It hasn’t hit you yet. ...You’re in denial.”

I wasn’t. It had hit me, but more like a warm hug than a punch. When I got the news we were driving back from the boat dock in our beloved weekend town of Bellport, on Long Island, having enjoyed a swim and a bag of cherries at the beach. I had been watching my friend’s teenage son bodysurf and swim against the swift current back toward the lifeguard flags.
I thought: My dad taught me to swim like that, all confident and athletic. Little did I know that at the same time, about 200 miles away, he was dying.

Jul 16, 2012

House of the Mortal

Three weeks ago I posted, House of the Immortals, about a dwelling which was designed with the intention of extending the lives of its inhabitants indefinitely. And now we have House of the Mortals, a dwelling which has been designed specifically for the the final years of the inhabitants life.

Eastern Design Office of Kyoto were given a very simple brief from their client: "I will die in 15 years. It will be a house awaiting that death."

The architects elevated the house to give unobstructed views to the sea, positioned it to greet the sunrise and designed the windows to echo the waves so that when the time came, the client would feel connected to his departure: "When I die it won't be sunset, it will be sunrise.WHen the final moment comes I will face the sea and depart on a ship flashing toward death. It will be a time revealed after death."

read more about the project at

Jun 25, 2012

Untitled Poem by John Cassimatis

Here is another poem from the series that my brother wrote during and shortly after our father passed away from cancer in 1992. I am always amazed at how they can take me right back to that time, twenty years ago, when we were teenagers, just starting to weed through our grief. Again, I am so grateful he captured in such a beautiful and raw way that moment in our family history.

I have long, wooden, circular steps
and never dreaded them as I did that night,
moving up them slowly, 
feeling the growing trembling in my muscles,
trying to convince myself I could go backward,
making my way through the door,
looking down at you in that quiet room,
dark, except for the candles we placed in the window
to pretend everything was fine,

I'm no fool. I knew things had been getting worse.
Each night I'd coax myself off to sleep
with prayers of tomorrow's miracle.
And every morning I'd go downstairs
and find you, bald-headed, mouth full of sores,
eyes struggling to keep awake in your chair.
I remember your Christmas grace,
finally saying how proud you were of me,
how hard you were trying,
you, exhausted, dozing on morphene,
wheeling that awful IV machine around,
fighting to give me just a little bit more.
You sat on our sofa, nodding, as I explained 
the Sunday games to you.
We knew it didn't matter.
Your legs swelled like overblown balloons
because your body couldn't process the glucose anymore.
Mother told me you were having trouble 
recognizing us. And then she told me
she unplugged you.

grasping your wrinkled hand, a tear
to your forehead, kissing it, gripping your hand
even tighter, amazed by your courage,
finally turning to the door,
taking you in and in until the click of the latch.

It was your birthday today.
I put sixty-five candles on a cake
and just let them burn.

Jun 20, 2012

House of the Immortals

What happens when you take two artists, poets and architects and mix them in with the fields of experimental biology, neuroscience, quantum physics, experimental phenomenology and medicine?

You get some seriously abstract architecture that claims to reverse the destiny of death and keep us hopping about on uneven surfaces forever and ever. Arakawa and Madeline Gins, the duo behind these structures called "bioscleave", believe that when we mere mortal humans engage in a tentative relationship with our surroundings it will keep us young forever. According to the architects, comfort is a precursor to death. 

Take the uneven floors for instance - the ones that personally give me a nasty case of vertigo just by looking at the photo from the safety of my sofa. These floors are designed with the intention of making you unsure of your footing, therefore forcing you to engage your body in a way that is slightly abnormal to maintaining equilibrium which in turn stimulates the immune system. Then, as if that's not disorientating enough, the walls are a myriad of bright, sunburst colors, some 40 in total, which combined with the varying levels of surfaces, is meant to make you feel as though you are in two spaces at once, thus keeping your perceptions and senses on high alert and and the grim reaper at bay.

Clearly smoking a joint in these surroundings would lead to immediate death, but let's just say for a moment that you followed the rules - could a house really prolong our lives or reverse our destiny all together?

Jun 13, 2012

My New, Revolutionary Burial Ground Garden Proposal

Continuing on from last post with the idea of combining life and death by creating multi-functional funeral and cemetery spaces (art shows in funeral homes, concerts in cemeteries) here is a photograph from the Merry Cemetery in Sapanta, Romania. While I was definitely struck by the artistic, colorful and sometimes very humorous grave markers which depict scenes from the deceased persons life (more on that in a minute), what really got my attention was the grave plantings on the left, which look a lot like dill and lavender.

And that brings me to a question that's been on my mind lately: with urban sprawl in full swing and available cemetery space in decline, is it possible to combine cemeteries and community gardens, using the "grave beds" of the deceased for plantings that provide food?

I know it's a bit of a radical idea (google has not a thing on it) and when I mention it to people they usually start off with a great big eeeewwww, that is geee-ross with a capital G, but is it? Is it gross? and if so then why? I know what I am proposing is against all cemetery rules, but stay with me in my imaginary world for just a second.

Jun 11, 2012

Funeral Homes of the Future

You wouldn't normally think of John Waters, Sigur Ros, Cheech and Chong and a cemetery as having anything to do with each other, but, lo and behold, here they all are on the summer bill at Los Angeles based funeral home Hollywood Forever - which hosts an impressive line-up of cultural events. 

People often ask me how I envision the modern funeral home. Besides the obvious of good architecture and interior design I believe true innovation will come by introducing the space as multi-functional; opening it up as more of a community center where book readings, music events, film screenings, and art shows can take place alongside funerals. Perhaps even this small step will help to break down some barriers between us and death and make it seem like watching a music concert amongst tombstones is a perfectly normal thing to do. 

Funeral homes find new life by hosting other events
Lakeland Funeral Home Opens Art Gallery

Jun 8, 2012

Death & Company, NYC

"It was thought that to drink alcohol was to live a life shadowed by death."

If you happen to find yourself in the lower east side of Manhattan and feel a hankering to travel back to the days of prohibition, try Death & Company, a completely candlelit speakeasy serving up cocktails that are so good they should literally still be classified as illegal. 

Jun 7, 2012

Corey Hendrickson, Visitation series

In those first days of loss, before it takes root, the world is either hazy or acutely detailed. Important things – conversations, events, preparations – can pass without notice or chance of recollection while the tilt of a lamp shade or the patterned fabric on a chair will remain clear forever.

It is this precision of the grieving mind which photographer Corey Hendrickson captures so accurately in his Visitation series. The images are of the simple details that many times are so vivid: a box of tissues on a table, a hanging suit, mints in a jar. Using warm light to perhaps soften the loneliness that the photographs invoke, Hendrickson skillfully presents the isolation and indiscriminate clarity of early loss. 

Jun 2, 2012

Funeral Fashion: Ann Demeulemeester

If you have to attend a funeral and have a few thousand dollars burning a hole in your wallet then look to Ann Demeulemeester to make you the most stylish mourner there. 

Jun 1, 2012

Christine Borland and Displaying the Dead

"...except for the question of how something so awful-so dead- could also be so beautiful."

I will never find a more appropriate time to post about artist Christine Borland than off the heels of last week's Displaying the Dead lecture in London. Appropriately held in the Museum of Natural History, there was a lively discussion which touched upon human responses, consent, ownership and ethics all related to death on display. 

If this is at all a topic which interests you I highly recommend looking further into Borlan's work. Here is a review from her past "Cast From Nature" exhibition at the Camden Arts Center. 

Review by Ruth Clark, courtesy Camden Arts Center, from May 2011
“As a student at Glasgow School of Art I used to visit the amazing anatomy, zoology and ethnographic collections at Glasgow University,” says Christine Borland. “I couldn’t understand why I was so intrigued, except for the question of how something so awful – so dead – could also be so beautiful. I was trying to unpick my responses, to understand how beauty and death could co-exist.”

May 30, 2012

To Death by Lee Jung

From the series Aporia
C-prints available at

With My Soul
In Your Eyes
To Eternity
As You Are
Inside Me
At First Sight
Your Name
I Swear
Take My All
Thinking Of You
To Death

May 28, 2012

Psychedelic Drugs Help People Face Death

The article How Psychedelic Drugs Can Help Patients Face Death, printed in the New York Times in April, stirred up much debate in the comments section after it's publication. The use of hallucinogens in a controlled environment as a way of easing anxieties during the end of life seemed to touch quite a nerve with people on both ends of a hazy, rainbow colored spectrum: "Acid made me a better person forever!" to "There is one man who is the answer to death, his name is Jesus Christ."

Admittedly so, the use of drugs to temporarily calm fears is not a new concept for me. I'm specifically thinking of an evening back in 2006 when my brother and I went to visit our mom in the hospital, stationed there for weeks with a raging infection and terminal cancer. As usual our days had been on a fast spin cycle of nurses and doctors, roommates that howled all through the night and halls that had a distinct aroma of dirty diapers a'la burnt turkey gravy. 

May 23, 2012

Featured Product: Capsule Urn

For the modernist at heart

Founded by award winning Industrial Designers using modern materials, the Capsule Urn paves the way for well designed memorial products. Their sleek line of eco-friendly cremation urns is a welcome addition to the sensibilities of the iphone generation.

Available for purchase worldwide. Visit for more information.

May 22, 2012

Follow the Raspberry Crumb Road

It was the crumbly but moist raspberry bar from the fancy pants bakery around the corner that would set my mother's day off to a good start. And a cup of tea. Her raspberry crumb bar and her tea. I would make sure to have this for her every morning; bring it to her bedside and sit with her as she took her first bites; gooey, sticky bits of filling tumbling down onto the front of her nightgown.

"Oh look at the mess your mother is making!" she would laugh.

Laugh. Smile. Chew. With her mouth full, raspberry jam stuck in the corners, through her puffy cheeks which were still swollen from the steroid pills but not from the chemo anymore because we had stopped that a few weeks ago. The steroids made her voracious, a sort of Dyson of edibles in her last days, suctioning up everything from matzah ball soup and chocolate ice cream to mac and cheese with a side of fries.

Giles Coren and the Gourmet Rendevous

"The last meal I had in a restaurant with my father was Chinese. I had taken him to Harley Street for his chemo. I was convinced that if he would only eat better, and more adventurously, that he might, somehow, die a bit less."

Thank you to restaurant columnist Giles Coren and The Times on Saturday for the excerpt from his new book How to Eat Out (available here). It was the quote above that pulled me in straight away and reminded me how food, whatever that food may be, let's say in this case 12 pieces of prawn toast and a bottle of Wan Fu wine, can become a literal time machine back to our past. Not only does Coren touch upon a theme quite personal to me with last suppers but also opens a humorous door to eating out in 1970's Britain and the interior of the brilliantly named Chinese restaurant of old, the Gourmet Rendezvous.

This is an excerpt from the excerpt because I do not have an online Times subscription and therefore I would be here til kingdom come typing the entire thing. Go buy the book.

And now I'm sad. The last meal I had in a restaurant with my father was Chinese. Just me and him at the Royal China Club on Baker Street, the very best of it's kind back in 2007 (I have other favorites now). I had taken him to Harley Street for his chemo, or blood tests, or something, I forget. It always made him incredibly miserable, and I thought to cheer him up with the prospect of Chinese food, as he used to do for us.