A Family Undertaking (available on Netflix) Before the Civil War, preparing the dead for burial and funeral rites generally fell to friends and family members of the deceased. The 20th century saw the rise of the professional undertaker, a trend that changed American attitudes toward death and distanced grievers from their loved ones. This eye-opening film uncovers a growing movement advocating a return to a more traditional, personal approach to honoring the dead.
Two Weeks (for a real look at family dynamics, hospice and death) Four grown siblings return to their North Carolina hometown to visit their mother (Sally Field) on her deathbed. Each handles the situation differently: Emily (Julianne Nicholson) devours self-help books; Keith (Ben Chaplin) floats through events in a Zen cloud; Barry (Thomas Cavanagh) won’t stop working; and Matthew (Glenn Howerton) seems disengaged. This poignant comedy is based on writer-director Steve Stockman’s personal experience.
Wit (this one-woman drama from HBO is raw and moving) Emma Thompson stars as Vivian Bearing, a disciplined, esteemed English professor dealing with a sensitive issue — her health. After being diagnosed with ovarian cancer, Vivian is forced to reassess her life and decide what’s really important. Wit also tells the stories of the people Vivian touches, including her healthcare team. Directed by Mike Nichols and adapted from the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama by Margaret Edson.
The Sea Inside (one of my most favorite end-of-life/choice movies) Based on a true story, this moving film centers on a Spaniard, Ramon Sampedro (Javier Bardem), who’s condemned to life as a quadriplegic. Determined to die with dignity, Sampedro leads a 30-year campaign to win the right to end his life. An extraordinary man, Sampedro inspires his lawyer, Julia (Belen Rueda), and a local woman (Lola Duenas) to reach for the stars, and through his inspiration, the women achieve far beyond their wildest dreams.
The Snow Walker (respecting cultural rituals and believes, understanding why expands the heart and mind) Charles Martin Smith helms this survivalist adventure tale starring Barry Pepper as cocky, hotheaded bush pilot Charlie Halliday. During a routine stop on a supply run in Canada’s Northwest Territories, Charlie agrees to transport a critically ill Inuit woman (Annabella Piugattuk) to a Yellowknife hospital. But the plane goes down in the Arctic tundra, leaving the twosome marooned — and facing the brutality of the looming northern winter.
Fierce Grace Spiritual guru Ram Dass attempts to recover from a stroke, which he dubs “fierce grace,” in this documentary produced and directed by Mickey Lemle, a close friend of Dass for decades. Dass, author of the lauded Be Here Now, was felled so severely by the illness that he became paralyzed — but in true Ram Dass fashion, he saw it as a reason to look death in the face
Tibetan Book of the Dead You’ll feel instantly at peace with this chronicle of one of the most unique books of Buddhist spirituality, narrated by singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen. Sit back and explore the rites prescribed by the text and see how they’re applied by people around the world. Two parts — “A Way of Life” and “The Great Liberation” — are included.
The Bucket List (a good look at chemotherapy and the face of death with some great laughter too) When corporate mogul Edward Cole (Jack Nicholson) and mechanic Carter Chambers (Morgan Freeman) wind up in the same hospital room, the two terminally ill men bust out of the cancer ward with a plan to experience life to the fullest before they kick the bucket. In a race against the reaper, the new friends hit the tables in Monte Carlo, down obscene amounts of caviar and tear up the road in supercharged cars. Rob Reiner directs this comic caper.
Corpse Tech from the History Channel (you will need to order this one direct from the History Channel)
Passing Through Our Hands Home funeral care guide on how to do a home funeral. www.passingthroughourhands.com
Lasting Images An incredible assortment of choice for what to do with your body or ashes…diamonds, rockets, reefs, art…it is all here! Email email@example.com. Moontower Productions.
The Vanishing Line For doctors, death means failure. Medical school has prepared D Monsen to treat disease, but not how to cope with death. The Vanishing Line chronicles her personal and professional challenge regarding end-of-life issues. 1998 National Hospice Organization Program of the Year.