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Death can be an uncomfortable topic but Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) tackled the heavy subject this last week in their event, "Let's Talk About Death . . . It Won't Kill You." 

David Balzer is an assistant professor of communications and media at CMU and the event moderator. Balzer said, "We feel that in this culture there is this uncomfortable sense around talking about death and yet it's so intimate, it's so personal, it's so final."

Face2Face is a continuing series at CMU focusing on "creating conversations at the intersection of faith and life."

This past week's Face2Face panel at the university focused on death and confronting the uncomfortable to allow for learning and growth. Many of the panellists noted that the process of death becoming so sanitized has created a growing gap between us and death itself. This can make us feel detached from our loved ones.

"We are all facing this mystery and so maybe that's why it's so compelling." 

One of the panellists, Rick Zerbe Cornelsen, is a casket maker. Cornelsen offers an opportunity for the families of the sick or deceased to bridge the gap and become apart of theIMG 5946Young and old gathered to discuss death and faith at CMU on Monday, February 11.the process of death in designing custom coffins and urns. 

Cornelsen shared touching stories about grandchildren who painted the inside of their grandmother's casket lid and an indigenous artist who decorated the casket of a loved one.

"One thing being around death does is that it strips away many of our pretenses," Cornelsen says.

Doug Koop, a spiritual care provider talked about spirituality and mental well being in the final days. Koop sees death almost on a daily basis and reminded the panel that through "death happens to an individual it affects communities."

Angelika Jantz, a Death Cafe participant explained the nature of death cafes are to open conversations about death and move through the uncomfortable discussion patiently to find understanding and community.

Michael Boyce is an Associate Professor of English and Film Studies and Vice President and Academic Dean at Booth University College. Boyce said that we find ways to talk around dying and death and displace that conversation into TV and movies. 

People watching online and people in the audience were able to ask questions of the panellists. The questions ranged from if the old trend of taking photos with the deceased in the 90s and if that trend was or is appropriate and respectful to deeper questions of reconciling child death and grieving children.

Other thoughtful questions raised included how a nurse should handle the discomfort around announcing the death of a loved one. The importance of using the discomfort to allow change and growth in family or friends.

"Enabling people to look as honestly as they can at the facts."

This coming together of people of all ages to learn about and begin to understand death in today's sanitized the society was eye-opening and honest.

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