The basis of life is transformation. We are constantly transforming. We are constantly changing. Just as the seasons change and just as we age and everything else is happening constantly to us. And that’s what it is. We die and we fall to the earth and we are part of the earth that nurtures new life and comes forward.         

Olympia Dukakis

From the film “Olympia”

Next month’s Wabi Sabi Film Festival will feature the documentary Olympia. On Friday, Dec. 4, at 10 a.m., please log on to watch this sublimely intimate, fly-on-the-wall documentary about a woman finding her own voice on her own terms and becoming a gigantic creative force in the world. 

That woman is Olympia Dukakis. Following the film, we will be joined for Q&A discussion by the director, Harry Mavromichalis. For free tickets, go to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/free-screening-of-olympia-tickets-127617506397

Irvin D. Yalom wrote, “The taste of my death in my mouth gave me perspective and courage. It’s the courage to be myself that is the important thing.” Olympia Dukakis has always had the courage to be herself.

Last month’s Wabi Sabi Film Festival screened Here Awhile, a movie about death with dignity. At the end of the film, even after the credits were done rolling, the 90-or-so people watching seemed speechless, many with teary eyes. Kudos to our moderator, Elizabeth White, for skillfully bringing us all back together and facilitating a terrific conversation. People shared their feelings and thoughts about death with dignity. Not everyone agreed, but almost everyone connected. Respect ran through the online Zoom audience.

The movie showed that the opportunity for respect is something death offers us. Along with the pain of loss and the blanket of grief, there can be respect for a person’s life, whether we always agreed with them or not. Their death also provides an opportunity for us to respect our own lives.

Recently, Ginie Cassin died. A lot of people in this neighborhood knew her, not just knew of her. One consistent reaction to Ginie’s death has been expressions of respect for her life.

Frank Ostaseski, author of The Five Invitations, says, “Let the fragility of this life inspire you. Let the precariousness of this life show you how precious it is.”

Appreciating the things, and the people, we often take for granted can be an act of self-respect. Especially in today’s world, we must work to embody respect — with or without agreement.

In the past few months, several of my family, friends and acquaintances have died. Some suddenly, some slowly and softly. Ginie, John, Sheldon, Barry, and my mother-in-law, Jean Glarner Ellzey. I’ve moved into a period of my life where people I know are dying more often. 

And yet I hardly ever pause to contemplate my own death. That seems a bit arrogant on my part.

Stephen Levine wrote, “The truth is, when people know they are going to die, that last year is often the most loving, most conscious, and most caring — even under the conditions of poor concentration, the side effects of medication, and so on. So don’t wait to die until you die.”

Deep down, we all know we are that family, friend and acquaintance who is going to die. Contemplating and articulating this fact is an act of respect. Let’s not wait to think about and talk about our own deaths. In the end, conscious dying is conscious aging.

Addendum: The deadline for this column was before Election Day. I don’t know what’s going on with the election as you are reading this. I do know that a democratic republic is the rarest form of government on earth. Just like people, democracies can die. 

Count Every Vote.

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