I like to
as a tool
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
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
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