We recommend “Departures,” the 2009 Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Language Film, currently in theaters. “Departures” is a moving, inspiring glimpse into Japan’s cultural heritage of caring for a body after death.
When a young cellist loses his orchestra job, he and his wife move back to his hometown. He answers a classified ad for a company called “Departures,” thinking it’s a travel agency. He discovers, instead, that the job involves washing and casketing bodies. Daigo overcomes his initial horror and comes to love the reverential ceremonies, which are transformational for the families involved . . . and eventually for him and his wife.
“Departures” beautifully depicts an approach to death that could teach our culture much. This approach is midway between a mainstream funeral and caring for our own at home. Although a professional washes and dresses the body in “Departures,” it happens in the deceased person’s home with the family surrounding their loved one during the entire ritual. There is no embalming. Shocking, funny, and profoundly moving things happen during this process.
Anyone interested in threshold work, spiritual openings, emotional transformations, or exquisite filmmaking will enjoy “Departures.” To see a trailer, click http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TaFRCLAYEF0
Nancy Manahan and Becky Bohan are authors of the award-winning Living Consciously, Dying Gracefully: A Journey with Cancer and Beyond. Reach them at www.NanBec.com or www.FullLifeGoodDeath.blogspot.com.