One of the questions I always ask guests is, “What does it mean to live a good life?” For the first time, however, a guest has left me thinking about changing that question to, “What does it mean to die a good death?” This guest is Eve Joseph, an award-winning poet, incredible storyteller, and the author of a book about death and dying (which also happens to be her memoir) entitled In the Slender Margin: The Intimate Strangeness of Death and Dying. The book flows out of Eve’s lessons and insights from working with and serving people at the end of their lives as a hospice care provider and represents the two central themes of the conversation: death and writing.
Eve’s life has been marked by distinct seasons. She fell in love with writing in fifth grade, but for about thirty years stopped writing. In that intervening period, Eve got married, had children and became a social worker within the hospice care system of her native Canada. Profound family events shaped her cessation from writing and later resumption of the practice, and the writing of her later years is shaped by the cumulative impact of her decades of remarkable experience. She has experienced indigenous culture, faced illness and tragedy, and spent herself in service to others.
Eve is an insightful and creative person committed to drawing as much as she can out of both life and death. I thoroughly enjoyed speaking with her. In this conversation, Eve and I talk about our society’s relation to and (limited) understanding of death, what it means to have a good death, lessons in metaphor, the creative process and the role of solitude in it, what Eve learned from having a stroke, and what is common in different cultures’ understandings of death.
“Poetry knows more than I do.” – Eve Joseph
This week on The School for Good Living Podcast:
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