In This Episode << SLIDE LEFT TO SEE ADDITIONAL SEGMENTS
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TIP: Prior to teaching, bookmark all of the Web sites used in the lesson and create a word processing document listing all of the links. Preview all sites and videos before presenting them to the class.
- Cover Story: Palliative Care. July 9, 1999; Episode 245
While hospice care can bring great comfort to terminally ill patients, it also requires their families to accept new responsibilities that may be very difficult to manage. This program discusses palliative care, a partner to hospice care, which creates peaceful and comfortable environments for dying patients within hospitals.
- Perspectives: Catholic Theology on Death. July 23, 1999; Episode 247
In the days following the death of John F. Kennedy, Jr. and the Bessette sisters, many Americans questioned their ability to sustain their faith in the face of tragedy. In this interview, the Reverend Larry Madden of Holy Trinity Church in Washington, DC discusses the ways loss and suffering might shake our religious beliefs and cause us to question the motives of a higher power.
- “News: Islamic Teachings on Death and Mourning. November 5, 1999; Episode 310
In this program, members of Dar al-Hijrah Mosque in Washington, DC discuss Muslim philosophies on death and mourning.
- Perspectives: Bill Moyers – On Our Own Terms. September 8, 2000; Episode 402
When asked to describe how they would like to die, many Americans say they would like to die in the comfort of their own home surrounded by family. The sad reality, however, is that many Americans die alone in hospitals. In this interview, Bill Moyers discusses the movement to improve care for terminally ill patients in America.
- Profile: Thomas Lynch. May 4, 2001; Episode 436
In this interview, writer and undertaker Thomas Lynch discusses how each of his vocations is enriched by the other
- Feature: Compassion Sabbath. June 15, 2001; Episode 442
This program explores the ways certain faith communities are beginning to talk about death, dying, and preparing for a “good death.”
- Feature: Grieving. September 6, 2002; Episode 601
Provides an excellent historical overview of the conflict between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland.
- “India’s secularism under threat?” BBC News. March 15, 2002.
In this interview, Mary Alice Williams speak with the widows of two victims of the September 11th attacks, one Jewish and the other Catholic, to determine the role their faith played in guiding them through their grief.
- 2003 Viewer’s Guide Resources Topic: Death and the Afterlife
This essay provides valuable information regarding the practices and rituals that various world religions follow when someone dies. Discussion questions and a suggested reading list accompany the piece.
- Cover Story: Teen Hospice. February 21, 2003; Episode 625
This program explores a hospice care program in which the elderly and terminally ill receive care from teenagers. The lessons participating teens learn about death and dying often teach them quite a lot about life.
- What’s a Life Worth? End of Life Care. September 19, 2003; Episode 703
This program debates whether the money spent to develop technology that prolongs life for the elderly might be better spent elsewhere.
- Excerpt: Relics of the Buddha. November 14, 2003; Episode 711
This excerpt from the book RELICS OF THE BUDDHA by John S. Strong discusses the importance of bones and relics in the understanding and acceptance of death in the Buddhist faith.
- Belief & Practice: Jewish Burial Practices. February 6, 2004; Episode 723
This piece describes Jewish rituals and burial practices and shows the volunteers who prepare the dead for burial.
- 2005 Viewer’s Guide Resources Topic: To Die For – Religion, Violence and Martyrdom.
This is a story from New Orleans, where funerals are powerful spiritual celebrations of both life and death.
- Web Commentary: Remembering the Dead by Gary Laderman, October 26, 2001
Other Sites :
- Dealing with Death: Accepting the Facts
The information provided on this site is designed to help young people of all religious and cultural backgrounds understand and accept the facts of death.
- Dealing with Death: Funerals and Memorials
This site provides young people with an overview of funerals, burials, and other traditions surrounding death.
- Excerpt: Death and Dying in Tibetan Buddhism, from the book Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism by John Powers
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/tibet/understand/dying.html This book excerpt focuses on the Buddhist awareness and perception of death.
- Online NewsHour: Rejecting the Right to Die. November 1999
In this forum, participants pose questions and offer opinions regarding Congress-approved legislation that penalizes physicians who perform assisted suicides.
- On Our Own Terms: Moyers on Dying. 2000
In this country, we have an enormous capability to preserve life; however, we often lack the ability to provide comfort and peace to the terminally ill. In this four-part series, Bill Moyers addresses the need to improve end-of-life care in the United States.
Some Published Resources :
- Death and Afterlife: Perspectives of World Religions
edited by Hiroshi Obayashi (Praeger, 1992)
- Death: The Trip of a Lifetime
by Greg Palmer (Harper Collins, 1993) Based on a PBS series and also available on VHS.
- If I Should Die
edited by Leroy Rouner (University of Notre Dame Press, 2002)
- Life After Death: A History of the Afterlife in Western Religion
by Alan F. Segal (Random House, 2004)
- The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade
by Thomas Lynch (Penguin, 1998)
Teachers will need the following supplies:
- Board and/or chart paper
- Ideally a screen on which to project the Web-based video clips
- Handouts of Web resources if computers are not available in the classroom
Students will need the following supplies:
- Computers with the capacities indicated above
- Notebook or journal
Other Prep: Prepare a list of contact information for Muslim and Hindu leaders, community members, or representatives from cultural, social, or political organizations. Good sources for this information include the phone book (particularly the “community” directory in the beginning, a directory of mosques or temples in the area, and Internet search engines. You might want to contact these places yourself, describe the project your students are working on, and ask if there are individuals who might be willing to make themselves available for interviews (on the phone, in person, or even via e-mail).
4. When you have finished your discussion with your class, ask students to identify any similarities or differences they noted between religious beliefs toward death and dying. Ask students the following questions, and any others you feel are appropriate:
Do you think that any of the burial or mourning rituals you learned about today help bring comfort to the dying and their loved ones? If so, how?
Activity 1: Comfort in Believing
In this activity, students consider the ways religious beliefs and notions of the afterlife might bring comfort to those who are dying.
1. Explain to students that, in this activity, they will interview a trusted adult such as a parent, family member, teacher, religious leader or clergy member to determine how or if religious beliefs help them to accept their mortality and comfort them in times of loss.
2. Distribute Student Organizer 1 and review the questions that students will ask while conducting their interview. Encourage students to add or modify questions as they see fit.
3. When students have completed their interviews, ask volunteers to share the information they gathered. Record key points on a flip chart, chalkboard, or dry-erase board. Note similarities and differences among the responses students received, and ask questions and encourage further discussion whenever necessary.
4. When students have finished sharing their findings, form a discussion with your class based on the following questions and any other questions you feel are appropriate:
Activity 2: End-of-Life Care
In this activity, students consider the ways end-of-life care can be improved in the United States.
1. Ask students to visit http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/week442/feature.html and read the transcript titled, Compassion Sabbath. (If students do not have access to the Internet, printed copies of the transcript will do.)
2. When students have finished reading the transcript, review the intentions of the Compassion Sabbath movement, and reiterate that two of the most important issues for the terminally ill are pain management and spiritual care. Ask students if they have any questions about the movement and its goals before continuing.
3. Divide students into groups of four. Then, ask them to discuss with their group members the importance of meeting the emotional and spiritual needs of the dying as well as their medical needs. Students should focus on the following questions, and any other questions you feel are appropriate, as they complete their discussion:
4. Distribute Student Organizer 2 and explain that students may use the organizer to record their thoughts as they complete their discussion.
5. Allow up to 15 minutes for the discussion. Then, ask volunteers from each group to share their thoughts about whether the emotional and spiritual needs of the dying are just as important as their medical needs, and how these needs might be met. Record key points on a flip chart, chalkboard, or dry-erase board, and encourage further discussion of ideas as necessary.
In this activity, students research burial rituals among various religious groups, and identify any similarities or differences among them.
1. Divide your class into groups of four.
2. Explain to students that in this activity, they will research burial rituals that four different groups follow when a loved one dies. The four groups they will research are Christians, Jews, Buddhists, and Muslims.
3. Tell students that each group member will be responsible for researching the rituals that belong to one of the four previously mentioned religious groups. Allow students time to select one group member for each religious group.
4. Tell students that their research should answer the following questions:
5. When students have completed their research, ask them to return to their groups and create a presentation that identifies their findings. Their presentations should detail the mourning and burial rituals that exist in each religious group. They should also identify the similarities and differences that exist among them.
6. Allow each group 10-15 minutes to deliver their presentations. Answer questions and encourage further discussion as necessary.
Note: If students have a difficult time finding resources with adequate information, the following excerpts and PBS transcripts may provide them with information needed to complete their research and presentation:
Ask students to visit the following three sites and read the appropriate transcripts:
When students have finished reading, form a debate with your class to determine whether physicians should be allowed to assist the suicides of terminally ill patients. The debate should focus on the following points:
Record key points on a flip chart, chalkboard, or dry-erase board, and encourage further discussion as necessary. When the debate has ended, determine what the consensus is regarding assisted suicide. Should it be legal, and should doctors who perform them be penalized?
Ask students to complete a journal entry that discusses their thoughts on the afterlife. Students should begin by describing what they have learned from religion about the afterlife, and they should identify whether they agree with this philosophy or not. (Students who do not identify themselves with a specific religion can concentrate solely on their personal beliefs about death and the afterlife as they complete this activity.) Students should also include their thoughts on whether the life one lives on Earth affects the afterlife. For example, do students believe that leading a good life will result in a peaceful afterlife? Lastly, students should identify how their beliefs or disbeliefs in an afterlife affect their thoughts on their own mortality and the mortality of their loved ones.
When students have completed their interviews, ask them to compile their findings in a brief report (3-5 paragraphs). You might also choose to engage your class in a discussion, allowing volunteers to share what they learned in their interviews. Identify similarities or differences encountered in the information that was gathered during this exercise, and encourage further discussion of key points as necessary. Encourage students to share their own ideas about what might drive members of religious groups to become extremists.