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Parting Ways explores the emergence of new end-of-life rituals in America that celebrate the dying and reinvent the roles of family and community at the deathbed. Denise Carson contrasts her father’s passing in the 1980s, governed by the structures of institutionalized death, with her mother’s death some two decades later. Carson’s moving account of her mother’s dying at home vividly portrays a ceremonial farewell known as a living wake, showing how it closed the gap between social and biological death while opening the door for family and friends to reminisce with her mother. Carson also investigates a variety of solutions--living funerals, oral ethical wills, and home funerals--that revise the impending death scenario. Integrating the profoundly personal with the objectively historical, Parting Ways calls for an “end of life revolution” to change the way of death in America.
Denise Carson is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism and a columnist at the Orange County Register, where she tells stories of how people celebrate the end of life.
This thoughtful, unique, moving, and educational book deserves a wide audience. . . . Highly recommended.”—A. W. Klink Choice
“Carson explores, in captivating detail, the new alternatives to traditional, institutionalized dying, mourning, and memorialization. She deftly paints a vivid portrait of her own experiences and successfully ties in conceptual research on newer death rituals. This book is truly unique and timely.” —Tony Bell, Professor Emeritus at California State University, Fullerton, Department of Sociology
provides a fresh and contemporary perspective on American death rituals. Carson expertly weaves her personal narrative around existing research, and in the process, she delivers an important analysis on ritual and death that is poignant and widely accessible.” —Justin Holcomb, Reformed Theological Seminary