Local students ponder death
BRECKENRIDGE – Death. It is something that’s feared. It’s a subject that often makes people uncomfortable. And it is certainly not something most people embrace.However, Catherine Starnes has a different view. She believes people should embrace death and should be more educated about it. She lost her father to cancer when she was 17 and a number of other special people in her life have also died.But it is from these experiences that she developed a perspective that gives her an intense appreciation for life – something that was reaffirmed through a recent class project.Starnes took the first Human Growth and Development class with Amy Mooney, Ph.D, at Colorado Mountain College Summit Campus. For the final project, students were introduced to community based learning when they went out to interview entities that deal with death and dying. Starnes spent two and a half hours interviewing a hospice nurse in Salida who shared her views.”If you can handle death, you can handle anything. … It’s not something that’s ever going to change. Maybe education is the first step,” said Starnes, who is now studying Ayurvedic medicine at Rocky Mountain Institute of Yoga in Boulder.Other students in the class talked to people at Bristlecone Health Services, family physicians or those at Shaw Regional Cancer Center in Vail.In the end, they all created informative projects shared in class.”By the time they got done, they taught each other and they taught me,” said Mooney, LMHC, NCC, who is a part-time Summit County resident, adjunct faculty at CMC and full-time professor at Des Moines Area Community College in Iowa.She usually teaches psychology, and this summer at CMC she wanted to capture the variety of students that took her Human Growth and Development class. Each week, she tackled topics that sparked social debate and covered everything from conception to death. And before the students’ last project on the final stage of development – death and dying – the class studied the works of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross who wrote about the stages of grief and loss.When the students went out into the community, “everything that they read, they saw,” Mooney said before going on to talk about how death is viewed today.”For us as a society, right now, it’s anti-age,” she said.In fact, age is something many people fight with products, surgeries. Age is not glamorized, she added. Then, even in death, “we try to make people more real-like,” she continued, referring to how people are made-up and dressed for funerals. In the early 1900s, people were more connected to death and had time to grief compared to how the steps operate now, Mooney added.”We’re more removed from death. I can’t say always, but we don’t talk about it enough … and it’s a passionate topic. Everyone has had to deal with it in some shape or form,” she continued.For Starnes, death is something she has dealt with many times with those close to her. As a result, she feels she is more grateful for what she has and more focused on what’s important in life.”I miss all those people, but I feel like they’re very close to me. Each one taught me a lot. … Life is such a beautiful thing,” Starnes said, adding that death is part of that.Lory Pounder can be reached at (970) 668-4628, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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