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Documenting Death

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 25, 2021

After Kathy Brandt was diagnosed with late-stage ovarian cancer, she and her wife Kim Acquaviva, both of whom worked in end-of-life care, started documenting the end of her life on social media. The result was a frank portrait of death, which offered non-medical folks a view of something they rarely get to witness.

Many of the posts deal matter-of-factly with Brandt’s experience of inhabiting a dying body. Did she still crave sex? (“It’s like, for me, at least, there’s nothing there,” she tells Acquaviva, on camera.) Did she remember that she had a diaper on, and that it was time to relieve herself? What were her symptoms today, and how were they different from yesterday’s? The couple’s radical openness extended to a post, the day before Brandt’s death, in which Acquaviva says, “I’m sharing this for nonmedical people who’ve never heard the beginnings of a death rattle. The death rattle is Kathy Brandt’s. … The video is dark and jumpy, but the sound is decent.” The next day, Acquaviva posted a picture of her wife’s face, taken shortly after her death.

Note: this video can be difficult at times (because you’re watching someone dying), but as Acquaviva says, “In a culture were we don’t share almost anything around illness and death, the only way to counter that is for some people to share a little bit more than is probably appropriate.”