August Reading: Muhammad Ali's Funeral Planning, Common Questions for a Terminal Patient, and Studying Ecology in Cemeteries

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

We've had a lot of travel and projects going on this month, so I just wanted to share a few interesting reads that I have saved over the past couple months. Hope that you all had a wonderful August and are winding down a great summer. Thanks for reading!

  • As a part of the New Yorker's Personal History series, a writer with terminal cancer shared and answered the most common questions she gets asked about dying. Building off of a television show she appeared on that covered taboo subjects, Cory Taylor wrote eloquently and bravely about her illness and her mortality. The questions might not be surprising -  "Did I have a bucket list, had I considered suicide, had I become religious, was I scared, was there anything good about dying, did I have any regrets, did I believe in an afterlife, had I changed my priorities in life, was I unhappy or depressed, was I likely to take more risks given that I was dying anyway, what would I miss the most, how would I like to be remembered?" - but her answers are poignant and thoughtful.

  • In June, ESPN published a long piece that focuses explicitly on Muhammad Ali's funeral and the various people, rituals, and religions that were involved in the icon's death. It is a really fascinating piece, and a unique look at a funeral that involved so many moving pieces - from the Catholic funeral director that embalmed Ali according to Islamic customs to the Imam that was with Ali on his deathbed to the public relations professional who wrote the 165-page book on Ali's death, approved by Ali himself.​

  • New York City's Green-Wood Cemetery has opened its doors to a local high school summer program, Project TRUE (Teens Researching Urban Ecology), which allows teens to research park ecosystems around the city. Green-Wood is a new site addition, and most students had never been to the cemetery. They were pleasantly surprised. “I want to be buried here,” one student remarked. “It’s a nice cemetery. And it’s near my house.” Though initially skeptical about what kind of wildlife they would find, their cameras soon discovered plenty. In just one week, "[they] had collected enough material for a pocket field guide—possum, groundhog, raccoon, feral cat, white-footed mouse, squirrel, chipmunk, and nine bird species, including a catbird and three red-bellied woodpeckers. “Our hypothesis was wrong,” Shakil Shaek, a Brooklyn Technical high school student said. “Green-Wood has more species richness, actually. I didn’t expect that from a cemetery.”

*Photo by Wayne Lawrence for ESPN