Earlier this summer, I was a guest speaker for “Death Panels: Exploring Dying and Death Through Comics” at the University of Chicago’s Institute on the Formation of Knowledge.
My topic, “Creating a Visual Obituary,” is one of my favorites, though I have to say that I had never before facilitated this offering with graduate students. And, I had never worked with a group that had studied dying, death, caregiving, grieving, and memorialization in such depth. I was keen to discover how they would respond to the subject matter (obituaries), the 50 prompts I had created, and the activity (drawing their obituary based on the questions/prompts that resonated for them), which I had used with older audiences.
The session was really wonderful—the 25 students were engaged, many of the students sharing their ideas and questions easily. When they split into pairs, the room became bubbled with conversation for the first 15 minutes and quiet as they each settled into drawing.
As they shared their thoughts and feelings about the entire experience, I heard that they had integrated the themes we discussed into their work: who am I writing this for, what will I share, how do I want to be remembered, what were the highlights of my life, what challenges did I work through and how did they shape me, who have I been close with, how did I live my values, and more.
I loved the experience and plan to offer it more… it’s akin to creating your visual life story or a life review. I’ve also created a visual lineage chart—important people in my life and experiences I have had. It’s another piece that I cherish.
Are you interested in learning more? I’d love to share my ideas about sharing our memories.
If you’re curious about the hand-drawn visuals I create in support of people planning for the end of their lives (often these are folks in their 50’s and 60’s), I hope you will join the TEDxSantaBarbara Salon on August 23rd. Learn more here, and please reach out to me with your questions!