I have been fortunate enough to show this piece of work many times in an array of settings from grieving dinners, artist residencies, private homes and gallery openings. It has become a tool for teaching about death in unexpected places, catching people off guard enough to where they might experience something with a little less resistance than if they were in a setting such as a hospital or with family members.
Lifebed interactive video installation, chicago, il 2012
In researching stories for the photo series on Near Death Experiences, I started to realize how much our culture is affected and even driven by our fear of death. I also realized in showing people the work, that it made many uncomfortable. The idea for this installation came from research gathered by nurse Bronnie Ware, who worked for many years in palliative care, which deals with end of life care as well as relieving the suffering of patients in all stages of treatment. She spoke to countless people over the years in the last few weeks of life and wrote a book based on the regrets of the dying. The following are the top five themes that resurfaced again and again:
-I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
-I wish I didn't work so hard.
-I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
-I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
-I wish that I had let myself be happier.
‘Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming….when you’re on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind, and it all comes down to love and relationships in the end. It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way.’
Taking this information one step further, I decided to create a space, literally a deathbed, where you might contemplate without judgement your actions thus far, reassess or imagine what you would say to the ones you love, if you knew you were days or moments away from death. Have you lived the life you dreamed for yourself? How might you change things if you had the chance?