In a world that sees death as something to vanquish, the 45-minute documentary Living While Dying presents an alternative: people living with terminal illness on hospice who greet the inevitable with courage, humor, creativity and acceptance. The subject is difficult. The film is surprisingly uplifting.
Death is a big mystery, yet the outcome is 100% certain and we all will definitely face it one day. Living While Dying offers profound opportunities to uncover value, grace, meaning, and even newfound eloquence in all stages of life. Even physical challenges of chronic illness can move us to a new experience of purpose and connection. Dispelling traditional fears and expectations about death, Living While Dying invites us to reimagine and set the stage for our own inevitable endings.
The film is being shown as part of the Before I Die New Mexico Festival. The Guild Cinema in Albuquerque is showing the documentary at 5:00 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. on Thursday, November 1. The theater is located at 3405 Central Ave. NE, in the Nob Hill district of Albuquerque. Regular admission is $8/$5 for seniors. All attendees will be able to register for the Festival’s prize drawings. The top prize is two full body burial plots in La Puerta Natural Burial Ground in Belen, New Mexico’s first Green Burial Council-certified cemetery.
Living While Dying will also be screened at 11:00 a.m. as part of the daylong symposium on November 3 at the University of New Mexico Continuing Education Building, 1634 University Blvd. NE in Albuquerque. The symposium includes speakers and panel discussions on topics that include green burial, legal and financial issues, near death experiences, physician aid-in-dying, and a panel discussion of funeral directors taking your questions. Half-day admission to the symposium is $20, the full day is $39 and includes lunch. REGISTER HERE.
In Living While Dying, filmmaker Cathy Zheutlin sets out on a brave quest to face and come to terms with our mortality.
Zheutlin travels from Portland to Australia to Bali as she explores and unravels her own fears with an open, upbeat, narrative style. Along the way, she meets an Aboriginal elder and death walker in Australia, and witnesses a mass cremation in Bali. Then, she invites her 90-year old mother to sit in a coffin and talk about her end-of-life wishes – because she wants to model an end-of-life conversation without the cliche of walking in a cemetery.
Says Zheutlin, “It’s not really about dying at all. It’s about ‘How am I living today, because I actually could die tomorrow?’ We need to ask ourselves, ‘Is what I’m doing today the life I want?’”
Given the current ‘Silver Tsunami’ of older adults growing in number, both Boomers and Millennials are turning to a grassroots movement of reclaiming death as a natural part of life. Many ranging from 20-to-80+ are re-evaluating and reframing how they want to embrace life to the fullest all the way through the final chapter of their lives.
For the past 40 years, Zheutlin has made films that explore consciousness and encourage progressive change, first as a cinematographer and then as a producer and director. Past projects include Lost Love and the documentary Just One Step: The Great Peace March capturing the heart and soul of a 9-month cross-country trek for global nuclear disarmament, and the award-winning short, Spirituality in the Workplace.