5 Reasons You Should Follow Chris Raymond, About.com’s Death and Dying Expert

Editor’s note: This is a confession. It is about breast-cancer awareness. It is about the pink. For years I have taken silent issue with this unending media frenzy while simmering in a frustrated pot of pink that permeates everything I see, down to the rubber gloves I felt forced to purchase out of need and no other choices available. When I imagine speaking these words out loud, it makes me think of the Seinfeld episode when Kramer didn’t want to wear the AIDS ribbon — what kind of a person am I? Am I not against breast cancer?

Like Kramer, I don’t need no stinking ribbon, and I wish most of the money spent on making things pink (now that awareness has simply become merely saturation — no, flooding) actually helps obliterate cancer, not merely medicate it, or fill landfills with discarded tcatchke.

Backlash, ensue. I hate breast cancer, as I hate all cancer, but who doesn’t?

Did you know that the leading cause of death among women (and men) is heart disease and tops not only breast cancer, but all cancers combined? February is heart-health month and heart disease touches almost all of us at some point in our lives, directly or indirectly.

Chris Raymond is the editor of About.com’s Death and Dying website, and he posted an article this month that delves into the subject of heart disease with facts that deserve a pro bono branding campaign provided by Susan G. Komen’s CMO (chief marketing officer). His bio speaks of his experience, but what really matters are his words and the reason my clicks are driven to his site: “Death is deeply personal and never easy to contemplate. While the Internet has enabled easier access to information, the guidance offered online about death and dying can prove misinformed, biased, deluded or worse. As About.com’s expert on death and dying, my goal is to provide you with timely, topical and objective information to help you make better-informed choices for yourself or someone you love.”

The Top 5 Reasons

Thank you, Chris, for always writing something I want to read about death — the practical, the enlightened, the sometimes uncomfortable, the profound, and the undying attention and appreciation of what happens to all of us.

Chris generously contributes to Helping Survivors Manage this mChris Raymondonth by way of an interview. Please feel free to comment, but, more importantly, follow him on About.com’s Death and Dying website. I read every one of his articles and they are consistently rich in content. Thank you for your contribution to the industry, Chris.

What is your first memorable impression of death in your life, how old were you and how did it affect you? When I was about 21, my grandmother asked me to join her at the open casket bearing the body of her beloved sister during the funeral visitation. As we stood there silently for what seemed like hours, my mind raced with thoughts about what my grandmother was thinking and feeling, and whether I was supposed to say something “comforting” to her.

Eventually, my grandmother broke the awkward silence and said, “I like the color of her casket. I’m going to get a casket in that color.”

This moment taught me that, despite the reality of death, the living must still carry on with the details, decisions and distractions that fill our allotted days, and that, sometimes, the best response is simply the gift of silence.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about being a survivor after a death? Undoubtedly, the greatest fallacy is that the forever-loss of someone we love is something we’ll eventually “get over.” You get over a cut, a cold or a car collision, but never the death of someone you love. Instead, in time, you learn to live with the reality of that loss but you always remain aware of the scar on your heart left by the wound of grief.

What do you wish you could tell every survivor after a significant death? Two things — First, do whatever you need to do to cope short-term without wondering if you’re “doing something wrong” and without worrying about what others think. Second, even though this loss might feel overwhelming right now, this too shall pass.

What is your favorite ‘famous last words’ quote? As he lay on his deathbed, the wife of comedian Bob Hope asked him where he wanted to be buried. His reply? “Surprise me.”

What is your favorite movie about death or dying? Cary Grant is my favorite actor, and his 1937 comedy Topper is my favorite death-related film. After Grant and his on-screen wife (played by Constance Bennett) die in a car accident, the fun-loving couple haunt Cosmo Topper, their stiff, hen-pecked pal who doesn’t have any fun.

A close second is 1978’s Heaven Can Wait with Warren Beatty, which is a remake of 1941’s Here Comes Mr. Jordan. In both versions, the lead character, Joe, dies before he’s supposed to and must temporarily inhabit the body and life of another dead man until a suitable permanent body/life can be located.

What is the most fascinating statistic about death that few people know? I don’t find this stat fascinating as much as downright unsettling. Scientific evidence suggests that left-handed people don’t live as long as righties for a variety of reasons, with the average amount of time measured not in days, weeks or months but years. Guess which hand I naturally use most…

What have you done to help your survivors after you die? (Do you have a will, have you planned your funeral, etc.?) I’m a typical example of not taking care of the things I know I should do, such as preparing a will or creating an advance-planning directive in case I’m hit by a bus. (And for someone like me who writes about these things, that’s inexcusable.) It’s not because I feel uncomfortable about it or can’t face my mortality; it’s simply laziness and thinking, “Oh, I’ll get to that tomorrow.”

How do you want to be remembered after you die? The only form of immortality available to us, unfortunately, is to live on in the hearts and minds of those who loved us. Therefore, I hope I’m simply remembered at all. And if I’m not, I plan to come back and haunt them like Grant/Bennett in Topper.

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