Sunday, January 6, 2013

Sendak: I cry a lot because they die and I can't stop them

I'm always struck at the end of a year how much we pay tribute in words and video to those who have died in the prior year.  Famous people always get the lion's share of the attention understandably as we focus on what they have achieved in their career.  Rarely do we get to hear from them in the months leading up to their death about their fears and dreams.

In September 2011, Maurice Sendak, noted children's author and illustrator was interviewed by Terry Gross for NPR's Fresh Air.  During this interview, Sendak is very upfront with his mortality and what matters most to him as he has grown older and his health begins to decline.  The whole interview is a gem, and I invite you all to sit down and find 45 minutes to be uninterrupted in listening to it.  But as I know it is the start of a new week in an ambitious new year, you may not have time for that in your priorities.  So at least take 5 minutes and watch this illustrated clip of the interview that was created by artist Christoph Niemann.


Niemann's listening to this inspired him to make this remixed version with a plaintive piano in the background, which has amazingly taken off to be viewed over 30,000 times on YouTube. Even the comments are pretty civil by YouTube standards!







This received a lot of comments and shares on the Pallimed Facebook page as well where I asked what quotes from the excerpt resonated with people most.  For me it was the statement:
"I cry a lot because I miss people.  I cry a lot because they die and I can't stop them.  They leave me and I love them more."
Gross notes his atheism is holding up while staring into the face of death.  Sendak was frank and open about his atheism and it is interesting to hear his views on afterlife since he does not believe in one.
But he believed in God, you see, and he believed in heaven, and he believed in hell. Goodness gracious, that must have made life much easier. It's harder for us nonbelievers.
As I have mentioned before it is interesting to see how many people in hospice and palliative care see a spiritual or religious calling to their work.  I have seen some people I have worked with in the past struggle to understand the dying thoughts of an atheist.  So when I saw this reworked illustrated short, I thought this would make a great educational project to bring to your next interdisciplinary team.  (If you do use it for team, please let us know how it goes!)

Sendak had many musings on his mortality and death and I will explore some of those more on a Pallimed Arts post next week.

Resources:
NPR Interview Transcript

Photo Credits:
Where The Wild Things Are - Wikipedia Commons
YouTube Comment - Screencap

Edit 1/6/13: GeriPal has also posted on the NY Times Sendak video.