Are you prepared to die wise? According to speaker, activist and death educator Stephen Jenkinson, it is our life’s work to learn how to do so. In collaboration with Third Messenger, an Asheville organization dedicated to facilitating conversation about death and dying, and in conjunction with the release of his latest book, Die Wise: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul, Jenkinson will speak, as described on his website, on “grief, dying and the great love of life” at Asheville’s Masonic Temple on Monday, Nov. 6.
Author, teacher and spiritual activist Jenkinson, a Harvard- and University of Toronto-educated theologian and social worker, is what Third Messenger co-director Gregory Lathrop refers to as an esteemed elder in “the death trade.” By his own calculation, Jenkinson has ministered to thousands of dying people. His life’s work has become the reclamation of the sacred art of dying in a death-phobic culture.
“This is where Stephen comes in,” Lathrop says. “He looks at the many ways we pathologize [the process of dying]. His mission is to create the awareness of just how fearful we are in relation to the topic of death and dying. He’s been willing to tackle a very uncomfortable subject regularly and openly so that it becomes less uncomfortable, less taboo.”
Amid the raucous din of the Asheville nightlife, why should anyone want to spend an evening in the Paris of the South ruminating about death? Lathrop acknowledges the notable discomfort many people encounter in even broaching the topic of death, much less pondering their own inevitable demise. “Some never will,” he says. Yet for those experiencing even the faintest murmur of curiosity, he urges leaning into the discomfort.
“Death is the veil. It’s the mirror between the worlds. Now, am I going to make you [approach it]? No, I’m going to walk with you.” It’s precisely that arduous path that Lathrop says makes the journey worthwhile. “If we look into the mirror, what we can see reflected is the infinite potential of a beautiful life. That’s why you do it.”
WHO: Stephen Jenkinson — author, teacher and spiritual activist
WHERE: Asheville Masonic Temple, 80 Broadway
WHEN: Monday, Nov. 6, 6 p.m.