This Party’s Dead: Grief, Joy and Spilled Rum at the World’s Death Festivals
What if we responded to death… by throwing a party?
By the time Erica Buist’s father-in-law Chriswas discovered, upstairs in his bed, his book resting on his chest, he had beendead for over a week. She searched for answers (the artery-clogging cheeses inhis fridge?) and tried to reason with herself (does daughter-in-law evenfeature in the grief hierarchy?) and eventually landed on an inevitable,uncomfortable truth: everybody dies.
While her husband maintained a semblance ofgrace and poise, Erica found herself consumed by her grief, descending into about of pyjama-clad agoraphobia, stalking friends online to ascertain whetherany of them had also dropped dead without warning, unable to extract herselffrom the spiral of death anxiety… until one day she decided to reclaim control.
With Mexico’s Day of the Dead festivities as astarting point, Erica decided to confront death head-on by visiting seven deathfestivals around the world – one for every day they didn’t find Chris. FromMexico to Nepal, Sicily, Thailand, Madagascar, Japan and finally Indonesia –with a stopover in New Orleans, where the dead outnumber the living ten to one– Erica searched for the answers to both fundamental and unexpectedquestions around death anxiety.
This Party’s Deadis her account of this journey to understand how other cultures deal withmortal terror, how they move past the knowledge that they’re going to die inorder to live happily day-to-day, how they celebrate rather than shy away fromthe topic of death – and how when this openness and acceptance are passed downthrough the generations, death suddenly doesn’t seem so scary after all.