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photo Mortal Lessons
By David Liban
View Trailer Here

Death is inevitable, yet we spend most of our lives trying to ignore that fact. We use euphemisms like ‘passing on,’ as if to talk about death would make it happen sooner. On the surface this film is about death and dying, yet it’s really about living, and about learning to face our own mortality.

This moving program follows two extraordinary women who are facing death head on. Both are stage-four lung cancer patients, and have been told they have only months to live, yet they have found that moving beyond the diagnosis — preparing for what is to come — has enabled them to face each new day with resolution and a level of calm. Their openness enables their loved ones and others involved to communicate their own hopes and fears, and to begin the grieving process.

Threaded through the two women’s narratives are the perspectives of hospice workers, funeral directors, bereavement counselors and others who deal with death and with dying people on a daily basis. Palliative and hospice care are examined, as well as advance directives and how to include loved ones in end-of-life decisions. The last few chapters discuss the cycle of life and explore both religious and non-religious perspectives on the possibility of an afterlife.

By confronting what happens in the days and hours leading up to our deaths, Mortal Lessons suggests, we can free ourselves to lead richer, more rewarding lives. The film includes a chaptered menu, and two bonus tracks offering a brief look at the modern funeral industry, and at how death is portrayed in the media.

57 minutes
© 2008
Purchase $248 DVD
Order No. QA-511
ISBN (DVD) 1-57295-511-2

Awards & Conference Screenings
Emmy Award, Cultural Documentary,
Heartland Chapter, 2010
Honolulu International Film Festival
Riverside International Film Festival
ReelHeART International Film Festival

Related Films
The Vanishing Line: Chronicles one physician's exploration of how to try and meet the needs of the dying and their families.

Pioneers of Hospice: Explores the development of hospice and palliative care, focusing on the legacy of the founders of the modern hospice movement: Dame Cicely Saunders, Florence Wald, the late Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, and Balfour Mount.

Ethics Thru Drama: A powerful and evocative series of short, one-character dramas created by two nurse-educators, and designed to focus discussion on complex ethical issues in end-of-life care.

Precious Lives, Meaningful Choices: Among children with multiple special needs are some whose medical conditions will severely limit their potential lives. Their parents struggle to give them the best possible quality of life while knowing that the time they have is limited. The four families in this film embrace their children's lives with courage, love, and hope in the midst of uncertainty.

Live and Let Go: Faced with terminal cancer, 76-year-old Sam Niver chooses to die with dignity and on his own terms. This will be a moving and provocative trigger for discussions of assisted suicide.

Caring at the End of Life: Based on six case studies of seriously ill hospitalized patients, this moving film focuses on the key roles of nursing staff in improving patient-clinician communication in end-of-life care.

A Family Undertaking: Profiles the home funeral movement, and the complex psychological, cultural, legal and financial issues surrounding the growing trend of families choosing to prepare loved ones at home for burial or cremation.

To Live Until I Die: Most Americans die in the hospital, often alone and in pain. These six terminally ill individuals are facing what lies ahead with anger, humor, insight, and honesty — determined to have a "good death."


Awards & Screenings

Related Films

Web Resources


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