Art of Dying Volume II | Page 70

NADIA HAGEN I like to think of the Procession as a tool set that you can use to engage death. church and they'll walk and sing hymns together as a chorus. I like to think of the Procession as a tool set that you can use to engage death, to build a relationship with death, and to move with a community through the grief and the sadness that you feel when you lose someone. It’s done en masse, with a huge number of people moving and holding you in a communal sense that heals you, that makes it okay to know we're all in this boat together. One of the Procession’s guiding principles is denying the view that when when you die, you lose. I remember growing up around that perspective and being so confused by it. Americans have a huge fear around death. Death is viewed as weakness. We feel sad, miserable, and broken because the fact of someone dying is weakness. We tend to partition our grieving into just family and friends. We're going to be weak together and sit shiva and mourn 70 | ART OF DYING KATHLEEN DREIER and cover the mirrors. Just us. We feel we need to protect ourselves from the outside world. I think if you keep it private and you keep it small, there's a guardedness to it, almost a shame. ‘Oh, my family lost because grandpa died. We're losers.’ It’s healing to be physically in the presence of thousands of other people who are willing to share this very fragile state. This is reflected in the costumes and the floats—acknowledging this fragile space and making beauty out of it. Taking something that's very sad or frightening and maybe grotesque and creating something very, very beautiful— everybody doing that act together, and then publicly showing everybody else. There's the skull and bones underneath whatever skin and social constructs we have on the outside. There’s something amazing about the process of sitting before a mirror and looking at your face and drawing a skeleton on it, peeling back the skin on