I recently had the privilege of experiencing Steven Jenkinson (R) and Gregory Hoskins (L) in their show "Nights of Grief and Mystery". Jenkinson is known for his work in what he calls "the death trade". He is is a Canadian writer, teacher, 'anti-death-phobia advocate' and former director of palliative care at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Toronto. He is also a musician and spoken word performer. The show, a mix of music and spoken word, is filled with Jenkinson's particular brand of off-the-grid wisdom, activism and sublime stories of the dying, our culture's fear of death and segues into his fascinating, personal life story.
Jenkinson has written a number of books - I recommend any of them. He advocates for DYING WELL - for every one of us. And lifts up death as something far more than a thing to be feared. For this, I bow at his feet.
From his book "Die Wise; A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul" -
“A good death is everyone’s right. The idea makes no sense in a culture that doesn’t believe in dying at all. Grief is the radical etiquette needed by a death phobic, grief illiterate time. Dying is the fulfillment, not the end, of life.
From a young age we see around us that grief is mostly an affliction, a misery that intrudes into the life we deserve, a rupture of the natural order of things, a trauma that we need coping and management and five stages and twelve steps to get over.
Here’s the revolution: What if grief is a skill, in the same way that love is a skill, something that must be learned and cultivated and taught? What if grief is the natural order of things, a way of loving life anyway? Though addicted to security, comfort and managing uncertainty, our culture could learn to honor, teach and live grief as a skill, as vital to our personal, community and spiritual life as the skill of loving. In a time like ours, grieving is a subversive act. “Grief: It’s how you love all those things in life that end.”
The National Film Board of Canada's award-winning documentary "Griefwalker" (mentioned elsewhere in this blog, and listed on the resources page) is well worth a watch for anyone alive - for we will all find our selves in need of befriendment of death at some point.
Here is a trailer for the film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xLQWM2j3AVg
Click HERE to go to Jenkinson's website: https://orphanwisdom.com/
And HERE to see and purchase his books.
Jenkinson's work came to my attention some years ago and remains a light for me and so many others who are courageous enough to develop authentic relationships with life, death and all the roads of loving and letting go that being human entails.
Thanks Stephen Jenkinson for your inspiration, and thanks also to Gregory Hoskins (who's work I am less familiar with, but equally enchanted by) .
With Love to All,
Rev. Maya Massar