The Last Passage: Recovering a Death of Our Own

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Oxford University Press, 1998 M12 17 - 320 pages
Is death merely the cessation of life? Are our final years simply a wearing out of the body? Are hospitals and funeral homes--the bureaucratic machinery of death--capable of handling the profound spiritual dimension of dying? In The Last Passage, Donald Heinz offers wise answers to these questions in a book that urges us to "recover a death of our own" and to view our final years as a fulfillment, a "last career." Despite the recent spate of books on death and dying, death remains a fact our culture tries desperately to ignore. In other times and in other cultures, preparing for death was seen as an important spiritual task--perhaps the most important task of our lives. Heinz argues that we can reconceive of death, reinvest it with meaning, and save it from becoming a meaningless biological event. Seeking appropriate models for such a reconstruction, Heinz offers a fascinating overview of the many ways death has been envisioned and ritualized throughout human history, from the Tibetan Book of the Dead to 15th century Christian ars moriendi--manuals on the art of dying--and from Jean Paul Sartre to Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. He also surveys the more recent contributions of psychologists, anthropologists, cultural critics, and death awareness advocates, whose efforts have largely failed to integrate death into a larger human story and the larger human community. Finally, Heinz shows us how we might create rituals through the use of music, visual arts, dance, drama, and language that would enable us to approach death with reverence, as the spiritual consummation of our lives.

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The last passage: recovering a death of our own

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Heinz, dean of the College of Humanities and Fine Arts at California State University, provides a provocative though somewhat effusive examination of death practices in a religious, historical ... Read full review


CHAPTER 1 The Dying and Reviving of Death
CHAPTER 2 Imagining Death
CHAPTER 3 The Lost Art of Dying
CHAPTER 4 The Last Career
CHAPTER 5 Finishing the Story
CHAPTER 6 Along the Ritual Way
Bodies in Motion
The Arts and Letters of Hope

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Page 38 - 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 played, Their lessons scarcely done; We passed the fields of gazing grain, We passed the setting sun.
Page 5 - MARGARET, are you grieving Over Goldengrove unleaving ? Leaves, like the things of man, you With your fresh thoughts care for, can you ? Ah, as the heart grows older It will come to such sights colder...
Page 96 - An aged man is but a paltry thing, A tattered coat upon a stick, unless Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing For every tatter in its mortal dress...
Page 5 - Ah! as the heart grows older It will come to such sights colder By and by, nor spare a sigh Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie; And yet you will weep and know why. Now no matter, child, the name: 10 Sorrow's springs are the same. Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed What heart heard of, ghost guessed: It is the blight man was born for, It is Margaret you mourn for.
Page 3 - And what the dead had no speech for, when living, They can tell you, being dead: the communication Of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living.
Page 34 - Come lovely and soothing death, Undulate round the world, serenely arriving, arriving, In the day, in the night, to all, to each, Sooner or later delicate death. Prais'd be the fathomless universe, For life and joy, and for objects and knowledge curious, And for love, sweet love but praise! praise! praise! For the sure-enwinding arms of cool-enfolding death.
Page 184 - I looked over Jordan, and what did I see, Coming for to carry me home? A band of angels coming after me, Coming for to carry me home.
Page 99 - The descent beckons as the ascent beckoned Memory is a kind of accomplishment a sort of renewal even an initiation, since the spaces it opens are new places inhabited by hordes heretofore unrealized, of new kinds since their movements are towards new objectives (even though formerly they were abandoned) No defeat is made up entirely of defeat since the world it opens is always a place formerly unsuspected.
Page 48 - Merciful heaven! What, man! ne'er pull your hat upon your brows; Give sorrow words: the grief that does not speak Whispers the o'erfraught heart, and bids it break.
Page 261 - Above all I am not concerned with Poetry. My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity.

About the author (1998)

Donald Heinz is Dean, College of Humanities and Fine Arts, California State University, Chico. He lives in Chico, California.

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