[Megan Andelloux] I think our soul is based in our brain. Like, I think that it comes out in different ways, but fundamentally, it’s our personality.
[Ariana Katz] I’m Ariana Katz and this is Kaddish.
[Megan Andelloux] Your soul is your personality and why I say this is because as I’m working with people with, or have worked with people with, dementia and interact with people with dementia and possibly might be developing that, I can see parts of myself disappearing.
My name is Megan Andelloux and for almost two decades I worked full time doing sex education.
[Ariana] I met Megan in 2010 when she came to my university to teach a couple workshops. Megan got involved in issues of death and dying in hospice after working on issues of sexuality with adults who had cancer diagnoses. She now volunteers at a hospice.
This is an episode about soul, centering on our heroine, the atheist. We’ll also be discussing advanced directives, hospice care, and going into some detail on dementia.
[Megan Andelloux] When you’re walking around in the nursing homes or in the in-patient hospice and you see the people with dementia, people always talk about the fact that that person isn’t there any more. They’re just the shell of a person and it’s really gotten me thinking. I said this recently to someone and they got offended at the statement, and I was like, “what wait I don’t understand why you’re getting mad at me,” and it was because they didn’t believe, and this was fascinating to me. For them, the soul isn’t your personality. It has to do with a spirituality and a connection to God. I don’t understand it, but it’s something different that I’ve never thought of or heard before.
[Ariana] Okay, so there’s a lot we don’t know about the soul – like anything. There’s a Jewish concept that our souls are a gift to us, that they are eventually collected back to the source, but what Megan is saying, that the soul is the personality stored in the brain and that as we grow up our soul actually grows and transforms, could possibly mean that we are co-creators of our soul given to each of us from a divine source – you know, if you want to make this soul concept into a God thing. But because Megan’s soul is in her brain, she’s observing it as it disappears.
[Megan Andelloux] Yeah, and that gets exhausting, and it’s heartbreaking and terrifying to hear other people see that happening, right? Because our souls is what makes people want to be around us, or not be around us, and so if you have nothing then, I don’t know, do you even exist?
[Ariana] Megan founded and ran the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health for almost 20 years. While there, she answered a phone call from a woman picnicking because of a sickness doctors told her she was making up. After falling into medical journals and research, Megan became invested in the intersections between sickness and death and sexuality. She was among the first to start thinking about the sexual lives of cancer survivors and from that became more interested in questions about death and dying.
[Megan Andelloux] I went to a conference last year called the Art of Dying. It was astounding. It was just fantastic, and as someone who is – I would say agnostic, atheist – it was very heavy-leaning on spirituality, and so I was like, “ugh”. But it was so good that I could distance myself from it and also start to take an understanding of how spirituality and religion is comforting to people. Like, it was that good that I was like, “oh I can see this.” There are a couple people that really stood out to me in presentations and they led us through this activity where you’re laying there and you were dying and another person was to sit with you and practice comforting touch and approaching and and that was really powerful for me. So that’s kind of how I got into it – is the importance of stillness and being present. I think I went up to the lady that was running it after and was like, “You know, I’m not really a spiritual person so I’m not really sure how I’m supposed to manage all this. In fact, I don’t really like feelings, I just like helping. And she just started laughing at me and I was like, “But I’m really invested in like going forward with this work. I like it.” And she was like, “Isn’t that the lesson in life that you were put here for?” And I was like, “What?” And she goes, “You know, sounds like you’re in for a big earthquake of learning how to sit and be with feelings and spirituality and practice, because there’s no way you’re going to get through this work without it, and it sounds to me like you’re being called to examine those things more.” and I was like, “That’s fascinating and I accept your challenge.”
[Ariana] So Megan began training and volunteering as a hospice chaplain – an atheist chaplain, if we’re being exact.
[Megan Andelloux] I’m learning not to say what my viewpoints are when directly asked. Like, I wouldn’t bring it up, no way. I mean, how many studies have shown that atheists are the least trusted or liked individuals in America? You know, like, I don’t want to go down that road.
But I have been directly asked, which is interesting because then I gave my real opinion, speaking using I statements, talking from myself, and it didn’t go so well. And I could feel and see the person getting angry, as though I was challenging their beliefs even though I wasn’t. And it was specifically on a conversation of after the person had died, this person was like – it was his dad and he’s like, “I just know that I’m going to see him again.” And in my head I’m like, “why do you” – you know what I mean. But he had – I saw him flare up and he just started repeating it over and over again. Even when we moved off of that topic and went somewhere else, he came back to it, and then I was like, “That sounds like it’s going to be true for you. If you believe that strongly, then I think that’s going to happen.”
Which is interesting because then I felt like I was directly lying to him, and that didn’t feel good. I said, “I really don’t know but I think we kind of disintegrate into the earth, but seeing as I haven’t done it before, I don’t really have an explanation.” He’s like, “Oh but the white light.” And I was like, “Yeah, but the white light is like endorphins and pain-relieving things that your body is flooding you through. Have you read the book How We Die?” That didn’t go well. So what was interesting was when I was watching him, I could see his see his space turn into grief. I could see his body go into grieving. Where before he had been a functioning individual who was just walking through the nursing home and saying hello to people, when this conversation happened, I could see the grieving pop back into his face and make it visible to others. So it seemed like a self-soothing, like trying to calm himself down, which I really didn’t want to take that away. Like, I don’t want to take that away from people. So I’ve learned to not – I’m not answering those questions any more.
[Ariana] If hospice is a shift in care model, no longer looking for curative treatments but for comfort, and chaplains work in the muck of soul or at least we think we do, what’s our dear non-believer doing in hospice?
[Megan Andelloux] One of the things I really struggled with – and I always have as a child – is seeing others in pain. Like, it deeply disturbs me to an unhealthy level, and so if I can provide some comfort, relieve some loneliness, by being present with a person and being fully there, then I will happily do that. I don’t think that – yeah, I think it’s about being present for the person who is dying and also for the family if they are present. They’re in a whole different world of pain, so if you can sit and be present with that and not try to take it away and gloss over it – like, I think there’s value in that. I think that we hide from pain too much, so I think it’s important to be confronted with it and to learn how to sit with it as opposed to flee from it.
[Rabbi Amy Goodman] Hospices [are] physicians within a reality of truth-telling.
I’m Rabbi Amy Goodman and I’m the Rabbinic Director of Hebrew Senior Life Hospice Care. Oftentimes, more truth is shared within a hospice context than there are in some other medical setting, because in order to enroll – be eligible – for hospice, this is where hospice may be different from other models of care or other types of care, even in the context of life with illness or terminal illness. Hospice is about shifting the focus of the medical care, because it remains a medical – it is medical care, but it’s shifting the focus from curative treatment, from rehabilitative treatment, to comfort for as many moments as that person has. The timeline is short, relatively short, oftentimes, to someone’s – the length of their life. It is a specific window of eligibility which people are able to be on the outside of, the outliers in, as long as the progression of that illness remains and you can see clinical decline. But when you open up to that reality, that we do meet people, we meet families with an incredible kind of openness and interest in sharing truths – truths about themselves and their lives, talking about what they want to be remembered, how they want to be remembered, which fears that they have, what regrets they have, and this is really – it offers some spiritual side of it, that we meet people really from a place of extreme vulnerability when they are accepting, oftentimes acknowledging if not accepting, aware of, open to, the reality is very limited, and what you want to talk about and what you want to prioritize in that limited time sometimes really comes to the priorities. What is most important to this person that hospice is able to fit within the questions of that really come from a place of sorrow and disappointment and loss and sadness that we don’t often sit in. And our response to our own mortality can be one of joy and relief and elation and wellness and knowing that you will be reunited with people, based on what your own personal theological beliefs may be, but it is rarely un-ambivalent because our lives are also – living is pretty great, even for people who have been suffering.
[Ariana] But what actually happens for the dying during hospice?
[Moe Lionel] It’s – what I would say from the death work that I’ve done is – to me it’s clear that the person who is dying is doing a lot of work, emotionally and spiritually and oftentimes physiologically.
My name is Moe and I am a hospice nurse and I live in Minneapolis. And that happens in stages, in a non-linear fashion, and that part of the work of death is happening emotionally and spiritually and that looks really different for different people, and in terms of – if that means that they’re sitting up and eating ice cream, or if that means that they’re non-responsive to voice and touch, or if that means that they have neurological activity that sort of makes them have tremors or whatever the various expressions that, you know, range from very common to not very common, and that I think express themselves in the body. And that oftentimes, the most access that people around have are the physical manifestations of that so to me the most spiritual work that the dying person is doing is a bit of a mystery because it’s almost as if you’re looking at the physical body full of markers of what’s happening emotionally and spiritually, and I believe that the things are interconnected but not synonymous.
But all that to say – say you have a heart failure patient who has for a long time managed the feelings of shortness of breath that they experience with oxygen use and rest and then as they get closer to passing away, those interventions are no longer working, the pharmacological intervention that’s often used would be low doses of morphine and oftentimes people will associate the introduction of morphine as the start of a person’s dying process.
So from a nurse’s perspective you’re introducing palliation for the symptoms that might signal the change in the person’s – where they’re at – and it’s not the morphine that’s expediting the death process, but people often will have emotional or spiritual understanding that, you know, that my grandma was doing fine and then they started giving her morphine and then she started dying, and so I think understanding that – a snippet of that line in some way comes out in a lot of family narratives about what it means to die, and so I think understanding the impact of that on people is helpful.
Something that can be confusing for everyone involved, including myself, is that sometimes the dying person is very able to say, “This is what I want. Like, I really need something more than what’s happening,” or, “I’m really afraid of feeling this because to me this signals that I am dying.” And sometimes people aren’t in the place where they can say that to themselves and then you’re blessed as the healthcare provider in that situation to work that out with the family, so there’s a lot of approximation of free will and preference and yeah, I think that’s just – confusing is the word that comes to mind, but I don’t actually mean that negatively. It’s unclear sometimes – it’s a little unclear how you can proceed in that for all parties involved.
You know, I’m very much about empowering people to state their preferences and make sure those are respected. It would also be naive to say that I don’t have a sense of what can be physiologically comfortable at the end of life and say that whatever you think would make somebody physiologically comfortable at the end of life is right. And it’s not about being right or wrong, but I think that was very hard – that was challenging for me, becoming a hospice nurse, because I felt uncomfortable being commissioned as an expert because there’s too much anti-authoritarian jargon in my life, but that’s actually unhelpful to pretend that you don’t – that you’re a neutral party – is unhelpful to the overall process.
[Ariana] Chaplaincy and hospice has taught me that we only have the tools that we have, be it medicines to deal with pain, family dynamics that have been ingrained for our whole lives, emotional tools – we can only work with the building blocks of life that we have. Hospice does not cure family riffs, necessarily, and it doesn’t try to bring back a curative diagnosis. We come into the room as patients, as family, as nurses, as chaplains, just as we are and we have to unfold together.
[Megan Andelloux] I don’t like working with people who have dementia. I do not like it and I thought I was going to be fine with it. When I was going through the training and my partner – the first day I think he dropped me off and he decided to sit with me. And they were explaining that at one point hospice was really focused on HIV patients, and then he’s kind of talking over the decades, and he’s like there’s a time when – he’s like, people still think of this, as hospice is cancer. You’ll be working with a lot of cancer patients.
He’s like, “Really, we don’t have that. What we have mostly is people who have dementia.” And I was like, “ugh.” And he’s like, “Do you have any issue with that?” And I was like, “No no, I’m fine.” Like, a little part of me was really sad, and then my partner’s like, “Maybe that’s not the best thing for you right now.” Like, he said it to me in front of the guy and I could see the guy not wanting to ask questions. I was like, “No no no, it’ll be fine.” And I did it and then promptly wrote to the director, “I don’t want to do it all.” That feels bad, like, I feel like I should be able to do it; just because it’s their experience doesn’t mean it might turn into mine.
[Ariana] Megan is really open talking about what she knows about what’s going on in her brain, but we only have these two categories: needs a chaplain or is a chaplain. We have the sick or the well. Megan bridges both these categories as her [unclear – sick?] story continues to develop and she continues to be a hospice volunteer.
[Megan Andelloux] About three years ago, I started noticing that I was having problems with numbers and keeping dates straight, started here and there showing up to presentations on the wrong day or stuff like that, or missing my flights – and as with all things, you push them off until they’re smack in your face. And so those things started progressing, I started noticing I was having trouble reading e-mails, I started passing them off to staff – to my staff – and then I really it really smacked me in the face when I couldn’t read a plane ticket, I didn’t know where I was. Like, what I was supposed to do? And so that started a process of going to do doctors, trying to go to doctors, and ultimately all the doctors being like, “There is something wrong with your brain but it will take us some time to figure it out.” Which is, for someone who liked doing – likes doing – investigation and figuring things out, is maddening and infuriating to be told like, “It’s not this but and it’s not this so we’re just going to have to kind of wait and see.”
So that’s kind of where I am. You know, at first they were saying frontal lobe – they were concerned it was frontal temporal lobe dementia degeneration because they see a lot of damage in logical and verbal tasks – frontal and left temporal lobe damage, but nothing is showing up on the scans themselves, so now we’ll be starting using – and I go to dementia groups, but at home we’ve started using brain damage. Everything feels very murky. They said three to five years, which is a long time to sit. I’m trying to figure out how can I have a spot in this world in the state that I’m in versus just existing, and so going to hospice was a way for me to try to give back and not just take up space.
[Ariana] Thanks so much for listening to episode 1 of Kaddish. We’ll take a break here and I’ll mention that you can check out our brand new website, kaddishpodcast.com, for updated information on all of the guests on the show as well as blogs and transcriptions of every episode. And now a word from our sponsors.
[Advertisement] Hey, Kaddish the podcast. I’m calling to tell you and your listeners about A Year of Radical Dreaming, the Jewish calendar project. What I have for you is the 5777 calendar, organized by Jewish month, 8.5 by 11, ready for hanging on your very special wall. Each month features art, culture, knowledge, history, a whole gaggle of brilliant beautiful Jewish [unclear] because you always wanted to know when the flood started and when the bund was founded in the very same place. So order one for you, two for your besties, one for your crush, three for your collective. You can find out more information on the Facebook – just search for radical Jewish calendar. You can go to bit.ly/radicallyjewishin5777 to order a calendar and if you do so by Rosh Chodesh Elul this Sunday September 4th then you get a calendar delivered to you for Rosh Hashanah.
[Ariana] You too can advertise your projects, events, books, calendars, CDs, mattresses, anything you think our listeners might be interested in. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Obadia] What’s an advanced directive? It’s a thing queers need. My name is Obadia. I think having advanced directives as a queer trans man is really important and also can’t be talked about without talking about the intersectionality of it, of Jewish based, of friends based, of all the problematic nature of it being a legal document and so on and so forth.
There are a lot of queers asking you, like, what’s an advanced directive, and it turns into a lot of fruitful conversations about, like, even if you’re married, like, what state do you live in and so if something were to happen to you depending on what state you’re visiting or whatever, even if you’re technically married to someone of the same sex – whatever that means – then you might not, they might not be able to make decisions, and when it comes down to it and when you’re most in need, someone can come out of nowhere and make those decisions if it’s not written down on paper.
[Ariana] Because for so many, there’s the fear that the person in the operating room or at a front desk may decide who to listen to and who to not listen to, and perhaps a piece of paper might help that.
[Obadia] Yeah, I have that piece of paper that is signed for the state of Pennsylvania, and if this kind of brain thing happens then this kind of resuscitation things happens, and then also there’s a page at the back that’s added on and not required and it’s like, when I die or when I can’t make decisions, this is how I want you to treat my gender, this is how I want you to bury me, this is how I want you to have the freedom to make decisions as you need – you know, all these kinds of these things that are in the nix of life when it doesn’t really work as it’s supposed to work. And for me it’s like kind of a advanced directive and I learned about it through Jewish tradition and ethical will, and those go together to hold the human part in addition to something the state needs to acknowledge, otherwise it’s just like sucky.
[Ariana] All of that can fit inside an actual advanced directive, which can be legally binding, but it’s variable by state and the kind of document. Luckily, we have Rabbi Amy to help us figure out all of these terms.
[Rabbi Amy Goodman] So one of the legal documents is the will or the trust. There is a power of attorney document – the healthcare proxy, also called the durable power of attorney – with the will, and the limitation is that there are states where the living will is not a binding legal document. If the family is all in agreement then that living will can be very very instructive in helping guide family’s decisions. The medical advanced directive – the healthcare proxy – designates the healthcare surrogate.
The challenge with the healthcare proxy – you know there are many challenges with any and all of these advanced directives documents – is that the person can only – only the individual can designate the health care surrogate when that person has capacity to do so. The living will is another “legal document” and I only say that because it’s not a legally-binding document in all states, but if it is not legally binding then you have to go to court between different parts of the family or different decision makers. It isn’t – it doesn’t have legal standing in that way, which is problematic.
[Ariana] You can get your house in order, you can draft up every document you need according to the place you need, put one in a lock box, bcc e-mail everyone you know, interview executors and healthcare proxies, but how does it actually play out? Back to Megan.
[Megan Andelloux] I have just seen, when families and loved ones are dealing with grief and pain and shock and loss, all reasoning goes out the window. All of it, and there is such a flood of emotions people don’t know how to handle that the advanced directive is, at least, one way that you can give your family some peace, some comfort in knowing that they don’t have to handle yet another thing. They don’t have to guess. It’s just – it’s there and if they ignore it, well, then they’re just being douchebags, and legally they’re not allowed to. But the pain that happens when someone leaves your life and you weren’t ready to let them go is beyond devastating, and to think that we should put really large problems in their hands is also mean, and I think on our part there’s only so much that the soul can handle without breaking apart a little bit.
[Obadia] And to help make those specific decisions and then the feelings of “this person isn’t here and how can I be honoring them in anything I do” doesn’t necessarily help that person or fix the situation and so nothing can be right. And so to have something that speaks to almost hold that person back as they’re holding you – to be like, it’s okay, I chose you. I want you to do the best you can. This is clearly a shitty situation and you probably can’t fix it and it’s okay. Like, I really signed off – you’re the best person for this; you don’t have to question yourself so much.
[Rabbi Amy Goodman] It’s very very difficult to move from paperwork to the reality and then from the reality to extrapolate to other situations if it really isn’t an integrated conversation about values and about wishes
[Ariana] So then why are we even talking about or even writing advanced directives? Shouldn’t we all just be having really meaningful conversations with the people who we want to make our decisions when we’re not able to for ourselves?
[Obadia] I’m such a proponent, and I also see how problematic it is and that’s larger. Like, where do you play in the system so it feels a little easier, and where do you sit back and like, “I refuse to participate because it’s all wrong in all these ways because other people get to define who my family is and what my body’s supposed to look like,” and also at the same time you have to do this so that you then have power to push against the system. Like, you have to be in it. Like, you have to work it to challenge it.
[Ariana] The way that Megan and Rory are thinking and talking about advanced directives make it clear that for them it’s about taking care of the people that live past you. And that when filling out forms that dictate your life in a really easy-to-read story, are crushing and violent and often impossible, and are living, there’s this really interesting question about whether we should do them or not in the off chance that they might even work, in the off chance that they might give us, the dying, that we lived our whole lives fighting for.
[Obadia] So that’s where it can be limited and frustrating. If it’s like you in a single moment and it’s not you in a moment that you died, and it’s not you that holds more than one of those moments, and so it feels like it has walls and is frustrating and it’s not going to bring you back. And at the same time yeah, it’s that pause and intention, that kavanah of I am thinking about you, I’m here and therefore because I can kind of exist at this moment, we’re thinking about other moments when you’re in another moment and thinking about me even if I don’t exist, I have and I do because I am still held in your memory and in whatever form this ethical will has been made on. And that’s me – that’s in my mind, an advanced directive and ethical will really go together, because an advanced directive is like, “Dear doctor, please don’t put this tube in this place ant this time,” which is really important – I’m not making light of that by any means, because if the wrong tube is put in this wrong place at this wrong time – so that is like baseline, and then how do you hug the person that’s taking care of you then? But I guess you also use an advanced directive without actually having died too.
[Ariana] Right, so it’s important to note that when you’re incapable of making decisions, the decision-making power goes to the person that you indicated in your advanced directive, so that means you can get sick and get better but when you’re sick, the advanced directive goes into effect. So for example, if you’re in surgery and you’re under anesthesia, the situation changes, the person who’s responsible for making those decisions for you would then have the power to do so.
[Obadia] By default who does – like, we don’t pause all the time and think – by default who is going to answer these questions? I mean, the fact that I have seen my father in the last 15 years of my life one time – wow, if I didn’t have an advanced directive as any kind of – like, he knows me as a seven-year-old girl. Like, that’s the last time we ever spent any time together. Can you imagine? He wouldn’t even be able to find me. He doesn’t know my name. He doesn’t know my gender. I mean, what – like, how is he going to make decisions about anything ever?
When not feeling either in your body the way that you connect to your body, by gender, by whatever it might be – you’re forced to ask these questions of yourself, and of like – what you can do when maybe you do feel in your body and your identity a line for yourself, and society doesn’t see you the way that you feel and connect? You’re forced to ask these questions and select these boundaries.
I think an advanced directive is like another tool to be like, here is who I am, here are the choices that I’m making, these people are the people that see me. So that for all the things that happen that can’t be foreseen, these are the people that, who not by law, because of biological connection or whatever, inherently get to make decisions – like these are the people that are the ones that are going to make decisions, and so it’s frustrating to be like, this state needs something written down on a piece of paper, but it can also feel really empowering to make another choice about, “this is my body and these are how I’m making the choices about my body.” Everybody needs to, and especially people who make beautiful families that are not within the definition, like pause and think who really would this fall back on if a court was the one ultimately making decisions.
[Ariana] So this is how it gets hard, like it wasn’t hard already. Because you can say what you want, you can write an advanced directive and ethical will and find the people who are dearest to you, who know you best and trust that they’ll take care of it, but what happens when you’re really alone.
[Obadia] At one point in my life I was asked by Katherine Kurs in a Death and Mourning class that I took with her – one of the assignments was – each person and individual had to write an ethical will. And that was the most painful all-nighter I have ever spent not being able to write an ethical will. I ended up, in the morning, writing her an e-mail being like, “I can’t send you one because it feels like I’m writing a suicide note.” It feels like – this is like – I’ve written those in my late teens and to write an ethical will in the space of like, what do you want to leave and tell people, I just couldn’t get around that. And that was also at a stage when I didn’t feel like I had family of any capacity. Maybe that’s why I couldn’t write an ethical will or have an advanced directive when I was 18. Like, I knew it wasn’t my parents but I didn’t have people that were going to see me that way, to be able to vouch for me and do it for me. And so yeah, I think there needs to be space made for writing an advanced directive, and get someone who can take care of you to really sign it. What if you don’t really have that person right now? There are so many people out there who every year get in situations where they can’t make their own decisions or have died and are not respected and honored as the human beings that they were, and I guess we do come back to kaddish and come back to how we hold the way we live, and the ritual and the space we hold for people we may never meet, to encompass them and to embrace them with our own ethical wills, with thinking about what could be out there.
[Ariana] In a setting like where Rabbi Amy works, where she’s working with elders, her answers are a little bit different. But what we can really take away from what she has to tell us is that in hospice work, you trust people with the truth that they have, that they made it this far and they must’ve figured a couple things out.
[Rabbi Amy Goodman] There is something protective for that person or something supportive or nurturing about how that person’s navigated the world as an alone person, because you don’t get to 95 if it isn’t somehow – whether or not it’s the ideal, whether or not it’s what the person set out to do consciously – that we are not, as hospice professionals, meeting people who are by and large displaying new patterns – that these are patterns of behavior and relationship and systems that have existed long long long before we ever came into the picture. And the other piece of it is that for people who are really really alone, that there are elder attorneys who will function in this capacity. There are advocates, elder advocates –there are people in the community who are able and do this for certain people.
[Obadia] An ethical will says, hey I’m here and you’re there and I was here and you won’t be. And it just, like, pauses something in time that stretches across a continuum, a bridge between – to hold hands, to give a hug, to embrace, when you can’t do that in a moment when someone most needs it. At this point in time I’ve thought about you in that point in time in some sort of way, and therefore by pausing now and you are pausing where you, are we are connected.
[Ariana] Okay, so we spent all this time talking about how we want our bodies taken care of but what does that actually have to do with the soul?
[Obadia] I can’t separate souls and body, you know, and so when I think about my body I think about where my soul kind of hangs out and where, at this point in time maybe not tonight when I go to sleep and maybe not tomorrow if I’m still not here. Like, you know, I think about my body because it’s holding and expressing and helping the soul be there. And it matters in all of that matchful unknown space – like, could your soul be somehow around, connected to your body? I don’t think about it really in such tangible terms, but like respecting the body that could A) either still be connected to the soul after you’ve died or B) actually, like, really it’s this thing that’s done this magical job of being and connecting to soul and shepherding and so on and so forth. And for, in regards to advanced directives, what more important time when you’re like, in between, in this limbo stage potentially not fully present in the body and psychologically on point but you’re not dead, like you’re still there and who’s going to take care of that in-between part when your body can’t do the talking, hearing for you but you’re still here. Like, no one’s going to deny that if you’re still not been pronounced dead, right, so isn’t that the space of the soul and therefore this state-sanctioned advanced directive is something that you need to have made so that that can be protected?
[Ariana] So, as for Megan, her advanced directive is already figured out. After Megan dies, she’ll be donating her body to the body farm at the University of Tennessee.
[Megan Andelloux] Doing this type of research can help people learn how their loved ones die when sitting with that unknown is so uncomfortable, and I knew I couldn’t have the type of burial that I wanted because it’s not legal, so I was like, this is the next best thing.
[Ariana] Megan’s soul is in her brain. Megan’s brain is in her body. And Megan is donating her body to research, for improving the understanding of the lives and deaths of others. Megan is donating her soul to research.
When the living remember the dead, it is for a blessing, but what about when the dead remember the living? When we leave behind advanced directives, living wills, ethical wills – files organized neatly for easy access and funeral planning – when we leave behind digital archives of who we were when we were alive, our dead get a shot at blessing the living.
This has been episode 1 of Kaddish, the first full length episode. If you like what you heard, you can subscribe on iTunes and please leave a review. You can also stream it through SoundCloud. Check out our brand new website, kaddishpodcast.com, for information on the amazing people who are on this show, as well as a transcript of every episode and blogging.
If you find yourself like I find myself on most days saying, “Where is the text?”, I will be posting a source sheet from Sefaria on social media and on our website to study along with. Check us out on Facebook @kaddishpodcast, on Twitter @kaddishpodcast, and drop me an e-mail email@example.com. I’d really love to hear from you.
Our next episode in October will be about the topic of reproductive loss. If you have a story that you want to tell or a book to recommend or a text that you want to bring, get in touch.
To purchase your very own radical Jewish calendar for 5777 and to support our sponsor go to bit.ly/radicallyjewishin5777. Shoot me an e-mail if you’re interested in advertising; I’d love to talk.
Huge thanks to Megan, Moe, Rabbi Amy, and Obadia, who shared their brilliance with this episode. Thanks to Sid Weisman, Jei-Jei Tan for transcription, JB Brager for illustration, Chelsea Noriega for web design, Tiny Victor for music, and the incredible generosity of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford that makes this podcast possible. And lastly, to the warm caring nursing staff at Einstein Hospital in Philadelphia.
I’m Arianna Katz. Sometimes your shiva minayn is digital.