alternate endings

Courtesy of HBO.

They say there’s nothing more certain than death and taxes and while you can’t cheat either one, you now have options and ultimately control over the former. The funeral business is a changing one and gone are the days of the traditional wake and burial.

HBO’s original documentary “Alternate Endings: Six New Ways to Die in America,” premiered on Wednesday, Aug. 14, depicts six different situations, all looking at the final chapter of life, and taking control over it. Individuals are writing their own endings which, in some ways, allows them to live on forever.

While saying good-bye is never easy, particularly when it happens too soon, it can be a celebration or even an environmentally friendly farewell. From oceanic structures and living wakes to shallow biodegradable graves and planned days of departure, Directors Perry Peltz and Matthew O’Neill follow six families who are all dealt a hand they’d rather not have. It’s an emotionally heavy, yet uplifting and informative film allowing a new perspective about death and the circle of life.

We meet an adult daughter whose father has passed and her final service to him is to allow his ashes to help reform an ocean reef. His remains will help rebuild and nourish the ocean life for centuries. Another family sends their beloved father and grandfather Tuna to space. And a youngster who loses his battle to cancer wants a bounce house party for his friends.

Some of the most heartbreaking yet familiar stories involve a terminal diagnosis and we walk with them on this journey to the very end, exploring their fears and gaining strength from them as they make their own final decisions with their loved ones.

Dying with Dignity, a law in six states and the District of Columbia, allows one man with COPD to plan his day of passing while another cancer victim finds the perfect plot for a shallow grave, shrouded in a biodegradable wrap to allow her to decompose quickly and nourish the earth and a specially planted tree.

If this sounds morbid, and how can death not be, it is actually empowering. Death is certain and these “new” ways of planning, celebrating, and even giving back can make it much more becoming.

“Alternate Endings: Six New Ways to Die in America is filled with love, heart, and information that can help you see death and your own final farewell in a new light.

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