S. Preston Duncan

Day 24: S. Preston Duncan

Richmond, VA, United States

This offering is a meditation upon death-phobic socialization, and the ways in which our refusal to examine the singularly universal experience of dying undermines our capacity to experience true peace in our lives. Inspired by the notion that death itself is a profound rite of spiritual passage, this piece offers a vision of acceptance with implications that stretch across personal, familial, and political landscapes. To accept the impermanence of our lives is to hold each moment of each life as sacred – a radical concept in a culture that measures human value in socio-economic terms shaded by deeply internalized ethnocentric prejudice.”


S. Preston Duncan is a death doula, BBQist, and denominational Southern River Rat. He is the author of poetry collection and EP, THE SOUND IN THIS TIME OF BEING (BIG WRK, 2020). His work has recently appeared in Atlas+Alice, The New Southern Fugitives, Levee Magazine, Circle Show, and has been translated into Chinese by Poetry Lab Shanghai.


“My End of Life Vigil Plan”

This worksheet, inspired by a training exercise created by the International End of Life Doula Association (INELDA), is intended to provide a space to contemplate your own physical impermanence. Now, more than ever, our lives – and therefore deaths – are in a heightened state of uncertainty. The anxiety this causes is compounded by the fact that we are socialized to essentially deny our mortality.

Our lives feel endless, and we proceed as though they are. Having to confront the universal reality of death alongside the personal trauma and grief of living through a pandemic and profound social upheaval takes a heavy toll on our psychological health. By sitting with the reality of death, looking at it directly, and engaging it in conversation, we can assuage some of the constant, low-grade panic many of us are experiencing.

While circumstances may not allow for us to die in quite the way we envision through this exercise, the act of creating an ideal End of Life process for ourselves is an effective method of undoing some of the conditioned denial that results in lifelong mental turmoil. We cannot live peaceful, meaningful lives until we accept that they will end.

You can use these questions to write your own answers privately in a notebook, or fill them out here. Should you elect to use this form, once you’ve submitted you’ll be able to see the responses of everyone else who has done so as well.

For more information on the doula approach to death and dying, please visit https://inelda.org

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