Mentioning “San Diego” and “Death Diaries” in the same sentence could easily be the West Coast response to W.C. Fields’ epitaph, “On the whole, I’d rather be in Philadelphia” (an urban legend, by the way), but we’re referring to a story from the San Diego Union Tribune about Dr. Roneet Lev, the director of emergency medicine at Scripps Mercy Hospital, who kept a record of every death caused by opioid overdose in San Diego County for 2013. There were 254. A fine, sobering read.
In another, longish, but fascinating, piece, the Guardian reports on the trend of families taking charge of the funerals of their loved ones, from the design and building of the coffin (a wicker casket, anyone?), to burial. Many who do this report it to be “an enriching experience.” It also touches on the trend of “direct funeral,” where the body is disposed without any ceremony. David Bowie—who died two years ago today, whose will stipulated that he be cremated without any friends or family present—is cited as a prominent example.
In Sunday’s New York Times, Karen Brown, a reporter for New England Public Radio, writes a heartbreaking story about her father. The end of his life, despite her best intentions, was anything but “enriching.” Her hospice service—understaffed, arriving without the necessary painkillers and equipment, if they arrived at all—leaving her father in pain until he fell into a coma. “At the end of life, things can fall apart quickly,” she writes. This was “not the good death we were promised.”