Dying with Dignity with Ann Grant

Jun 19, 2020

Or, listen on Spotify

Our approach to dying is a reflection of how we think about so many other different parts of our life, which for many of us is based on fear. Though death is the only thing we are guaranteed in this life, the associated grief, loss, and loneliness are human emotions we often tend to avoid. At times, these thoughts cause us to have a fear of life, we stop living because we're so afraid of dying. In today's episode, Ann Grant shares her thoughts on death, reflecting on how the death of her mother shaped her views on dying and how our thoughts on death have changed.

Anne GrantI am Jeff's mother-in-law. My daughter, beloved daughter is married to Jeff. So-

Jeff: That's right. We've known each other for maybe 32 years. Well, I've known Schuyler for 32 years. So maybe 30 years, at least.

Anne Grant: We've known each other a long time. I've seen you over a long time and through a lot.

Jeff: That's true. You've seen, probably a number of different renditions of me.

Anne Grant: Correct?

Jeff: Yeah.

Anne Grant: And-

Jeff: I hope you like the current rendition.

Anne Grant: I liked all the renditions, basically.

Jeff: So, you have the distinct honor of being the oldest person ever on the podcast.

Anne Grant: Uh-huh, 76.

Jeff: 76. Well, my father was actually on the podcast-

Anne Grant: Oh, I remember that.

Jeff: ... but I think he was not 76 when he was on. So you're amongst the oldest.

Anne Grant: Uh-huh.

Jeff: And when we were discussing the subjects that we might cover, you brought up the subject of sex.

Anne Grant: I did.

Jeff: And I'm very glad, and I think many other people are that we did not land on that particular subject.

Anne Grant: I'm not so glad. I have many things I could say about that, that I think would be of relevance, especially to your daughters, but we didn't go there.

Jeff: Yes, all right.

Anne Grant: It's for Schuyler, really to do that, I think.

Jeff: Yeah. Well, this could be a podcast with a circulation of four instead of the larger circulation that this one has. But I am glad that we decided to talk about the subject that we are going to cover, which is death, which is a taboo subject for a lot of people. A lot of people don't like to talk about it, but of course it seems prescient and ever present in our current climate-

Anne Grant: Yes.

Jeff: ... because here we are in a global pandemic, and I suppose you've had the most years of anyone on this show to think about it. So I'm curious to know your general thoughts about death, but also how you in your ideal vision would like to die.

Anne Grant: Okay. When you said death, I thought dying more than death.

Jeff: Okay.

Anne Grant: So that's the topic, dying.

Jeff: Yeah.

Anne Grant: And so, yes, because I am so much older now than ever I was before. It's up for me a bit more. I feel myself mortal in a way that I didn't like, even [inaudible 00:03:19] your age. I didn't think I was going to die. I mean, of course, I knew we all know what more or less, but not really, very much less, but now it's more. And I could talk here about the more that has to do with my mother dying. She really chose her death, chose her dying in a conscious and very elegant way. So I have that example before me.

Jeff: And you provided a lot of palliative care.

Anne Grant: Right. My sisters, I have two sisters and we three took care of my mother. She had quite a bad stroke, lost her ability basically to walk and talk. Although she tried hard to get those things back, and that was its own elegance. And then when there came a time that that was not going to happen, and that happened probably within ... Well, we took care of her for two years and probably in the last six months, she knew it's over really.

Anne Grant: And she didn't want to stick around. I remember asking her, "Mother, how do you feel about after you die? What will happen for you after you die?" And she not being able to speak, just waved her hands out into the air and looked around, and for her was just, she was going to dissolve into, start us, call it what you will, Adams [inaudible 00:05:06]. And she was more than okay with that. So she stopped eating and it took her a month to actually dissolve.

Jeff: Yeah.

Anne Grant: And she just stopped eating, and then within everybody got to come around. Schuyler came around to say goodbye. My son, Schuyler's brother, three years older, he came, he brought his kids. We all got to say that, and then the last week he was more or less in a drifting in and out, maybe you would call it a coma and boop, then she was gone. But it was sweet.

Jeff: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Anne Grant: It was just a great thing to see. There wasn't really, I don't think a lot of pain. Even toward the end, we did have hospice. We didn't really need hospice, because we were so familiar with taking care of her, but we had it, they had morphine, which they could give her, which we couldn't, she wouldn't take it hardly. I think she was like, I don't want to be an addict.

Jeff: Well, it's never too late to make decisions about how you want to live your life.

Anne Grant: Exactly.

Jeff: But at that point, what year was that? Do you remember?

Anne Grant: Yeah. So that was 17 years ago now. No, let me think. Yes. Well, no, 15 years ago. My oldest granddaughter was born ... No. Yeah, no. 17 years ago.

Jeff: Right. So-

Anne Grant: [crosstalk 00:06:43] was just a tiny, tiny baby when she died.

Jeff: Right.

Anne Grant: [crosstalk 00:06:51].

Jeff: Because at that juncture, at least in California, from the little I have read-

Anne Grant: Correct. There was-

Jeff: ... there was not-

Anne Grant: The dying with dignity-

Jeff: Correct.

Anne Grant: ... option was not available.

Jeff: Right. So you could choose to stop eating or drinking.

Anne Grant: Correct.

Jeff: But there wasn't a process in place for the legal prescription of barbiturates or some form of medicine that would essentially help you in your past.

Anne Grant: Right? Well, there was nothing to draw down the curtain as fast as that does. Her doctor was very on it with that. He understood that she wanted to. He thought it was a great thing. And we didn't have to have the [corner 00:07:44] or anything like that. The doctor said she died of natural causes in her home.

Jeff: Yeah.

Anne Grant: And back then there was that element of, if you die in your home, you have to have somebody say this was a murder or whatever.

Jeff: Right, right. And she was in her 80s, right?

Anne Grant: She was 84.

Jeff: 84. So with the little bit of research that I've done over the last century, life expectancy has gone generally up and up and up until the last couple of years, which is interesting, which we could talk about. But I think at the beginning of the 20th century, women lived to about 48 on an average basis and men live to 46.

Anne Grant: Is that really true? We have to remember that there's the two ways to look at things that I'm not sure of this, but there's the all the infant deaths that used to happen.

Jeff: Correct.

Anne Grant: And then, so did that pull the median or whatever, did that pull it down? So it looked like a lot of people died or what? That-

Jeff: Yeah. I mean, it's absolutely a valid point. For sure, that advances in modern medicine have eliminated infectious diseases that disproportionately affect children, and when someone dies when they're three or four, that's going to bring the average down and in a way that can be misleading.

Anne Grant: Correct.

Jeff: Still, I think it is relatively safe assumption to say that while certainly many people lived into their 70s and even 80s-

Anne Grant: Correct. Yes.

Jeff: In the 1800s and in the 1900s that overwhelmingly now, people are extending their lives, and modern allopathic medicine has been, I suppose, part and parcel of this kind of different shaped graph. I know that you read Atul Gawande's book, Being Mortal, and that he has some very compelling visuals in that book where, you can progress kind of through your life, and then you hit this place where something happens, you get sick or you have some form of traumatic accident, and instead of just dropping off the cliff and dying, it's this slow, lingering, gradual demise that looks like increased life expectancy, but it may not be an indication of a very, I guess, enjoyable existence.

Anne Grant: Quality of life deal.

Jeff: Yeah.

Anne Grant: Yeah. Correct. So you have diabetes and you get the insulin and all like that, and you live on or a kidney disease and now you're doing dialysis and you're staying alive, and ... Right. Now my mother, for instance, she fell after her stroke, probably a year or after, broke her hip, and the doctor wanted to have a hip replacement for her. And we were just like, "What? She can't walk. Why would we want to get her hip replacement for her? Silly." There was that part of allopathic medicine. It's a business.

Jeff: Yeah.

Anne Grant: And hospitals are a business. So there's-

Jeff: Yeah.

Anne Grant: ... that part of the extension of life, not necessarily extension of quality of life. But if you don't want to die, you might like to stay alive no matter-

Jeff: Yeah. Well-

Anne Grant: ... if you're scared of it.

Jeff: Right. Yeah. And I suppose there are certain kind of religious or spiritual component to that equation, and I don't know if your mother, I don't remember if she was a religious person or not, but when culture was more faith based-

Anne Grant: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jeff: ... there was a feeling that death was the providence of God, and a lot of meaning was actually ascribed to what happened after in the afterlife, like things would be revealed and certainly there's having a reincarnation and how, that gave a certain, I guess, purpose to life after death.

Anne Grant: Right.

Jeff: But in this kind of modern world, and I don't know if you agree with this, but in this modern world, death doesn't seem to no longer be sort of the providence of God. It seems to be very much in the realm of medicine and science. And so your life, or the end of it is generally someone's fault, or that there's not sort of a helpless resignation to a power greater than you.

Anne Grant: Right.

Jeff: It's actually like, you, my doctor keep me alive or you gave me some medication that had side effects or whatever. And I wonder if that creates a certain amount of what you said, fear of life.

Anne Grant: Uh-huh. Fear of life.

Jeff: Well, so that you have such a fear of death, because every thing that's meaningful is packed into this short life span that you stop living because you're so scared of dying. You know what I mean? And so I wonder with your mother and also with you, is there a sort of a spiritual or religious component to not being afraid of death?

Anne Grant: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yes. Well, my mother was not a religious person. I mean, in the sense of organized any kind of church thing like that. We, her chicks children and my father and mother, we lived on a ranch. There was a lot of killing of animals, overall, father Danford. And that was just part of ... You could say that was, we ate because of other creatures dying.

Jeff: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Anne Grant: And that was accepted. And I really think, my mother would always say, "I'm just a peasant. I'm really a peasant." I think she had that feeling that she had that, maybe it would be the faith in fate. It's fate that we all die. And so she wasn't going to worry about it. I think it was that she wasn't my father, on the other hand fought dying the whole way, wanted to be living and couldn't believe it, that he was dying. He ended up in a hospital, all those tubes and whatnot, and he had a pretty miserable dying as a consequence with no family around at the end.

Jeff: Yeah.

Anne Grant: Because he thought it.


Jeff: Schuyler's grandfather, your husband, Jack's father, Ellsworth.

Anne Grant: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jeff: One of the reasons, I think he had this house on the East Coast that we all spend a lot of time and you guys went out there every summer and Schuyler and I eventually took sort of the responsibility of the care of that house on very much around the idea of kind of how you dealt with your mother with this idea that our old people can be kind of sitting on the porch in a rocking chair, sort of taking life in, watching their kids, watching their grandchildren, watching in this case even their grandchildren.

Anne Grant: The great grandchildren.

Jeff: Their great grandchildren, right.

Anne Grant: Right.

Jeff: All the way up until pretty close to when they die.

Anne Grant: Yes.

Jeff: And I was very attached to that idea and being able to, I suppose-

Anne Grant: Provide the corner.

Jeff: Yeah. Yeah.

Anne Grant: You and Schuyler provided the corner where else, with my father-in-law.

Jeff: Yeah. That's-

Anne Grant: That was cool. [inaudible 00:17:10].

Jeff: But I think that, that situation, or the situation that you had with your mom is kind of rare. And in these days, in this day and age, and that our elders are often seen as more of a nuisance, that are sometimes kind of shipped off to facilities instead of revered as these kinds of oracles of wisdom.

Anne Grant: Right.

Jeff: The way I think people used to view their elders. And I wonder if kind of the sort of extent this artificial extension of life through modern medicine has sort of eroded the exalted position that an old person should have.

Anne Grant: Right, because now they have to be shouldered as a burden more.

Jeff: Yeah.

Anne Grant: Yeah. Well, there's no guarantee that when you're old, you're going to be wise. Absolutely no guarantee. And, I never thought of my father-in-law's particularly wise.

Jeff: Well, yeah.

Anne Grant: So maybe I'm not wise. [inaudible 00:18:27], but I don't know. I know that's okay. We had some issues.

Jeff: Yeah, but that's-

Anne Grant: But anyway-

Jeff: That's natural, but whether you would qualify it as wisdom or knowledge, and there is a distinction [crosstalk 00:18:43]-

Anne Grant: Oh, maybe yeah. There could be reverence-

Jeff: Yeah.

Anne Grant: ... there could be a reverence for, here's someone who has lived for-

Jeff: And they have a certain amount of experience to impart.

Anne Grant: And perspective.

Jeff: Correct. Yeah.

Anne Grant: Right.

Jeff: I mean, I certainly, Ellsworth and I sometimes disagree on political issues, but I certainly respected the fact that he had experience.

Anne Grant: Yes.

Jeff: So how have you thought about, and I don't mean to be [inaudible 00:21:20] all morbid, but because I don't think you're morbid about it, but how have you thought about dying?

Anne Grant: Ah, well, [inaudible 00:21:30].

Jeff: I mean, do you have a plan?

Anne Grant: Think about it too much, even, oh, well, I've read a lot about dying and I've read ... I guess, if I think about anything, the thing that gives me the willies the most is the idea of dementia and that's a kind of dying. You no longer have yourself. So, if I think about anything, about it, I'm going to, okay, I'm hard of hearing now. I'm probably like to get more hard of hearing. Maybe at some point I'll get a cochlear implant or two, if I could afford that, and if it's available to me and it works. I understand it does.

Anne Grant: That'd be nice to be able to hear until I'm whatever. I think, okay. I'll probably live to somewhere in my 90s. That's where I go. Now I don't go much further than that. I don't go to 103 like your grandmother. And that's quite a way on ... Not really that much but 16 years, say my team's like still a long way, but so ... And I see myself in a corner. I do. I kind of go, "Okay, I'll be old, really old. I might be with Schuyler and you in a corner." I could see that happening and be comfortable with that.

Jeff: We have a plethora of corners right here.

Anne Grant: Cozy corners.

Jeff: Yeah.

Anne Grant: Cozy, comfortable corners. There is no doubt about it. So, that being the case, I'm thrilled that I live in a state that has the whole dying with dignity protocol in place. Hopefully it won't go away with some kind of shift, horrible shift, because I, and I know all about that. You get to have the two doctors, and let me just state this right now. There's a wonderful group, compassion and choices. I have a website and they give you all the information you would ever need to know. And they just updated their website to include the whole coronavirus thing. If you should be pretty terminal within that six month window, which you have to be terminal in six months in order to get the good night pill.

Jeff: Right.

Anne Grant: And if you should happen to get the virus now and you are terminal, what happens? They've got all that information for people.

Jeff: Yeah. And it is quite a process. I read through some of the process and it's not something that can just be decided on a whim.

Anne Grant: No.

Jeff: You need multiple consents and waiting periods.

Anne Grant: You need two doctors saying you're terminal. Yeah. You need to be able to take the pill yourself so you can't be so gone in dementia that you're not able to decide for anything.

Jeff: Right.

Anne Grant: That's the scary part.

Jeff: Yeah. There's [crosstalk 00:24:54].

Anne Grant: It's not terminal. Dementia is not terminal.

Jeff: Mh.

Anne Grant: You can live with Alzheimer's for many, many years. Talk about being a nuisance and a burden and with not a very good corner because you have to have diapers put on you, Jeff.

Jeff: Yeah. There's a lot I would do for you, but there may be a place where I draw the line. Corners are fine, but I don't know about diapers. You said something interesting, that the thing that gives you, I think what you called the willies about death would be something like dementia. And I think what you said was the loss of self.

Anne Grant: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.

Jeff: So I wonder how you'd-

Anne Grant: Maybe that's persona.

Jeff: Yeah. Well, how do you define self or persona? What does that mean for you?

Anne Grant: I would say, let's call it your persona rather than yourself. Maybe self is bigger and deeper, because I believe in spirit. I'm not my mother. I think there is something further on. I'm not going to get all bloviated about what it is, because I don't know, but I have a pretty strong conviction that there's more than just my person.

Anne Grant: So let's just use the word, when you are gone in a dementia, you lose your memories altogether. Like a waterfall, all your memories, you keep revisiting them. We've talked about that, how you revisit your memories and update your personhood. You lose all of that. You don't know who you are. You may be the kind of person given the fact that you don't know who you are, you're scared, because maybe you lived your life being scared.

Jeff: Yeah, or not knowing who you are your whole life.

Anne Grant: And scared of it, or trying to defend the fact that you have a big, giant emptiness there that you try to fill with things or power over people or who knows, and now you don't have any of those crutches that keep you feeling who you are, and so you don't have your person anymore, but you have the scare still.

Jeff: Yeah.

Anne Grant: And so those people can be that way. Alzheimer's people can be that way, and get all paranoid and angry and have to be constrained and not scary, or you're happy dementia, but there's that too. And you can take the pill-

Jeff: Right.

Anne Grant: ... too late.

Jeff: Too late.

Anne Grant: You have to take it yourself and you don't know, huh. And so they want to prevent murder. They want to prevent heirs from saying "Time for you to go."

Jeff: Yeah. Yeah, and certainly, I was reading various, the kind of approaches to dying with dignity that exists in certain institutional religions, and they're generally quite restrictive. I mean, obviously in the Catholic religion, but even in some forms of Eastern religions where self-harm, or it violates concepts like ahimsa-

Anne Grant: OH, I see.

Jeff: ... which I find sort of interesting.

Anne Grant: [crosstalk 00:28:34] kind of thing?

Jeff: Exactly. Yeah. But you said something to me the other day that ties into kind of what you just said in a way. You said something that now at your age now, you are more able to appreciate the wind against your face. And the way I interpret that-

Anne Grant: Oh, I see. Right. Uh-huh.

Jeff: ... is that you have ... Because you have largely issued the material world largely in your life and behaviors and practices, that you have cultivated a certain kind of awareness of experiencing phenomenal moment to moment and taking a lot of joy in that.

Anne Grant: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jeff: And if you're able to do that, if you have not trained yourself to be able to do that, when all the other things break down, you've got nothing to find joy in, right?

Anne Grant: Yeah. If you haven't developed, and I think this is something that comes with being maybe come to me, certainly with being older and getting even more older all the time, is the feeling of, "I'll take pleasure and gratitude, gratitude, and just a lot of things that I used to just be like, it's nothing. I'll take gratitude and having a wonderful poop."

Jeff: Sure.

Anne Grant: I'll take, I'll just go like, I'm happy. This is good. And it feels good and it is good because I had a brother who went through not being able to pee, and you die in very quick order. If you can't do that, like within 48 hours, you'll be dead, if you don't get to ureter and get it out. And so seeing him go through that pain twice, and whatever I'm aware of that. Oh boy, I can pee maybe even too easily, but [inaudible 00:31:11] to be grateful. I'm grateful for little things. I'm grateful for my grandchildren, like you wouldn't believe. And I think maybe that's something that grandparents do pretty good.

Anne GrantSo, yes. Yeah, to be grateful for the wind in my face it's true.


Jeff: I mean, I know that you don't have any special knowledge that the other eight billion people on this planet are about the afterlife. And I know you've already sort of made a disclaimer against bloviating on that particular topic, but it does seem like you have a faith in some form of power that is greater than you, or just that greater than-

Anne Grant: The material plan, I would say.

Jeff: Right. And why? Like talk about that.

Anne Grant: Well, I used to put it like this for a while, and it is because I'm a gardener and so I do composting. And when you throw a whole bunch of stuff on the compost pile, it's mixed up and it breaks down and you turn it and it breaks down more and breaks down more. And then there's a bit at the end that's called humic acid. And that doesn't go away. That's something ... Yeah, you put it in your garden, in your soil, but it doesn't ever go away. You can build up more of it. And that's sort of what I think about me and my life and my self, capital S self and my person, persona. There is a humic acid, I think to me that after I die and there's self stuff, that's this body and like ... Here I go into speculation.

Jeff: That's fine.

Anne Grant: I sort of feel like, depending on how you lived your life, your humic acid bit that's left after you're gone, is attracted to and hangs out with, maybe, other humic acid that is of your kind. So if you've been someone, shall we use that word? If you've been a Trump type, power over scared, have to have, must do, control, blah, blah, blah, then you, when you die, you're going to be hanging out with the humic acid types that are like that. And that's going to be, you could say, purgatory or hell. So that's sort of speculation.

Jeff: Sure.

Anne Grant: That's kind of where I went and that's, I'm leaving it at that.

Jeff: Yeah. Well, all we have are the contexts of our human experience to imagine things that are outside of it. And certainly, if you are a Christian and you have an epiphany, you will associate that most likely with sort of a oneness with God.

Anne Grant: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Right.

Jeff: Because that is your religious and cultural context. If you're a Buddhist, you may associate it completely differently with a sense of emptiness or self-transcendence. So you are a gardener, that's your religion. Right?

Anne Grant: Right so.

Jeff: And it's not that in some ways you're gardening and some form of Abrahamic religion has avoid-

Anne Grant: Right.

Jeff: ... to give you somewhat dualistic concept of the afterlife based around humic acid, which I think is, that's the way that we can understand these things, because all we have are our limited five senses to perceive phenomenon, that's it.

Anne Grant: That's right. That five senses in the brain that registers them. I love that Deepak Chopra thing.

Jeff: Yeah.

Anne Grant: That cool boy, he is so clear about that stuff too. It makes it so clear and he gives room for the skeptics and the people, the atheist. And he basically says, "Well, the atheist have a God too." I just totally, it's great.

Jeff: Yeah, he was the first person that I really had an involved discussion with around, I suppose the cleavage between the material plan and the spiritual one, and where they actually [inaudible 00:36:47], because I think one of the dangerous things is to completely, I guess, bifurcate the divine and the material.

Anne Grant: I think they're two separate things and he says they're not.

Jeff: Yeah.

Anne Grant: Yeah.

Jeff: Well, I think, and again, to Abrahamic religions, and this [inaudible 00:37:09], there was a kind of efflorescence of Judaism and Christianity, but even prior to them, theism in general around the agricultural, the development of agriculture, where humanity needed an excuse to have dominion over the world, so kind of removed himself from the animal world, took God, put it up in the sky and stripped away anything divine from the material world. And we've sort of seen some of the modern ramifications of that, because most things in our life we look at is completely devoid of the divine, hence completely disposable. Plastic water bottles, BIC lighters, whatever, just go on and on and on.

Anne Grant: Yeah, right.

Jeff: So I think that's the danger between taking those things out, because I'm sure, I mean, you probably look at your plants in your garden, I mean, and have a religious experience there. You might not think of it as religious in the way that many people think of religion.

Anne Grant: Well, definitely I don't-

Jeff: But there's something divine about it, right?

Anne Grant: There's something magic and magic is to mine. It's magic. I was just talking with Karen, my sister. Teaches here with me, and Karen is like, "I am so done with any of this spirit talk and no, Annie, no." And so she goes, "Look at those two plants over there. That one's growing and it's pretty big. And this one over here is kind of Squatty. And so that's disorder. There's no order to that. There's no order. It's all chaos." "Are you kidding?" "That one has got good soil under it. That's order. This one doesn't. No order."

Anne Grant: And I mean, order it's order of a different magnitude. Okay, I don't think you can get away from the fact that this universe, universes have a divine order from, I don't know how, but, and do the scientists know? I think they're trying to find out. Anyway, that's a big topic. You don't have to go there.

Jeff: That is a big topic. And yeah, I mean, of course like, this is, I spent a lot of my time probably misspend a lot of my time thinking about that very issue, and I think about it in terms of consciousness really, of like, is that really what stands behind everything?

Anne Grant: Consciousness.

Jeff: Yeah. Or is it just some sort of lucky fortuitous emergence from a combination of atoms that have given humans the ability to not just perceive phenomenon, but to feel.

Anne Grant: Yeah. And to see order-

Jeff: I can see, yeah.

Anne Grant: ... and develop a consciousness of the whole wonderment thing. It's interesting because, yes, I remember reading, I can't remember the name of the book, the pendulum something or another, and the guy who wrote, I wish I had it. I loaned it to somebody. What a mistake. He said, this guy said that consciousness is an inevitable development, and inevitable development, it was bound to happen. It's like an efflorescence, we're not at the end of consciousness. I mean, there's more consciousness. It can be more efflorescence in the consciousness realm, you could say. So if we, as a species, get extinct, possible, quite possible.

Jeff: Yeah.

Anne Grant: There will be, the earth will not be extinct. And they will go back to who knows what, how far back down the life chain will it go? There will in fact be consciousness again on earth unless ... Yeah, oh yeah. It will be.

Jeff: Yeah. Sure.

Anne Grant: It might be rats or whatever. There'll be another life form that comes along and becomes the consciousness that we know. Isn't that cool?

Jeff: Yeah. Well, certainly even in science's ability to study other mammals, there is of course, more and more evidence that pigs for example, are totally conscious. [inaudible 00:42:00].

Anne Grant: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.

Jeff: That they experience pain, they've experienced sadness that when their children, when baby pigs are born to a sound, that they can recognize their baby's squeals and vice versa versus any other squeals on the farm.

Anne Grant: Yeah.

Jeff: So there is-

Anne Grant: Oh, that's the mammalian thing. That's emotion.

Jeff: Correct? Yeah. Well, that is-

Anne Grant: Consciousness comes from emotion for sure, but it's an added bit.

Jeff: Yeah. I guess what I'm trying to get at is that the part of you that is not the brain, but it is the mind.

Anne Grant: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.

Jeff: And there is compelling evidence to say that there're other beings on the planet that can [inaudible 00:42:52]-

Anne Grant: That have mind.

Jeff: That have mind. Anyway, this is what's kind of freaking me out these days around eating too much meat, but that's a whole other.

Anne Grant: Well, yeah. I mean, we're hunter gatherers. We're hunter gatherers.

Jeff: Yeah. I would guess I'll clarify that by saying how [crosstalk 00:43:17] is raised.

Anne Grant: How the [crosstalk 00:43:19] is raised.

Jeff: Yeah.

Anne Grant: And how it's killed.

Jeff: Yeah.

Anne Grant: I mean, if it's killed like [inaudible 00:43:23], it's like the light is on, the light is off. There's no pain there.

Jeff: Right.

Anne Grant: And if you can make it so there's no fear close going into that pain, going into that light off, I mean, that's how the ranch killers who were good do it. They gather into the corral, they're eating a little food, and you just put the pistol to the forehead of the, call it my lamb, but they're really not that small, they're teenage sheep. Boom. It's like light off. The other sheep that are there barely notice. They don't go, "Aah, I'm out of here." It's their turn next.

Jeff: Yeah.

Anne Grant: And I don't even think it's my turn next. It just happened. You could wish for a death, that's simple and easy, and-

Jeff: Yeah. Well, I suppose that is the double edge sword of human consciousness is that we are the only beings as far as we can tell that know that they will inevitably die.

Anne Grant: Right. It seems so. Big bunch of stress and fear and everything. Possibly why we "invented a God."

Jeff: Yeah.

Anne GrantI don't know.

Jeff: Yeah. I mean, we need ways- 

Anne Grant: We need meaning.

Jeff: We need meaning.

Anne Grant: We need meaning.

Jeff: That's it. That's it.

Anne Grant: As humans, we need more meaning than most animals need.

Jeff: That's right. And we're epic storytellers and story creators.

Anne Grant: Oh, yes. That is it.


Jeff: Have you done like a living will or any of that stuff?

Anne Grant: Yeah. Uh-huh.

Jeff: Yeah.

Anne Grant: Schuyler is my advanced directive person. I have an advanced directive where don't let me-

Jeff: Yeah, though she is-

Anne Grant: ... fail miserably in some hospital. Get me out of the hospital, even if the doctor say, "But she'll die." If you do, get me out, let me die. Yeah.

Jeff: Well, from personal experience, I know that you can trust her in that particular regard.

Anne Grant: I think I can, like without any sort of condemnation or judgment. I think I can trust her more than I can crush Jason. I think he would be more tender-hearted. He would somehow. It's interesting.

Jeff: Schuyler has a very small and cold heart.

Anne Grant: You sure that [inaudible 00:46:28].

Jeff: Yeah. Right. I'm not editing that out. No, I might. Yeah.

Anne Grant: That she a practical heart.

Jeff: She does.

Anne Grant: It's practical.

Jeff: It is practical. Sometimes I wish it was slightly more tender, but that is also my own self-obsession, but she's lovely. We won't talk about her anymore.

Anne Grant: Yeah.

Jeff: Yeah. I mean, I think the death and our approach to dying is, I suppose, a reflection of how we think about so many other different parts of our life, which is again, as you point out, based in fear. And I mean, with the increasingly sort of like safety well-intentioned, but safety consciousness of everything from helmeting and belting to COVID-19, washing and distancing to antibacterial, everything to-

Anne Grant: Helicopter parents, you don't ... Yeah.

Jeff: Of course, helicopter parents or surveillance cameras or surveillance culture, is that these things are not disconnected.

Anne Grant: Correct. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jeff: And I mean, you've found kind of a way to live that feels so outside the norm. I mean, does it feel that way for you? And I guess there's just some context for listeners, you guys have lived on the same property for almost 50 years, 45 years.

Anne Grant: Let me think. Yeah. 45, 46 years. Is yes. Uh-huh. Right.

Jeff: And a lot of the structures on that property, you guys have built?

Anne Grant: Built or remodeled? Yeah.

Jeff: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Anne Grant: They were falling down structures, and just to give you a little, Jack is absolutely like, he doesn't like to think about dying and death, or he doesn't like to go there. He thinks I'm morbid to be even just thinking about it and reading so much about it. I've done a lot of reading about it. Knocking on Heaven's Gate, that's a book. There's just a lot of them out there. Good ones. And he is like, I'm staying here on this place of ours, that I built all this stuff which he never likes to build anymore. He doesn't like to do that anymore, but he sees it all that he's done and takes pleasure and pride in it as well. He should. I'm staying here. Well, Jack, I say, what if we, neither of us can drive. And what would this place that we live in is seven miles from town down a windy road, we'll be stuck out here.

Anne Grant: I don't care. I'll get someone. We have tenants on our now remodeled buildings and they're great tenants. They don't have to pay any rent. They'll either drive me to town or bring me food, and I'm here. That's why I'm here in the sun hanging out. Right. My next novel or whatever poem. You'll probably go to poems by that time and he writes great poetry. So, I'm a little different that way. I'm like, I'm not sure I'll be happy that way. I think I need more sociability. I want-

Jeff: You need a corner.

Anne Grant: I want the corner. I want the corner where I watch Schuyler, little girl, and I think there is an element where, mh, but we're not fighting about it-

Jeff: Yeah.

Anne Grant: ... but there's slots about that.

Jeff: Yeah.

Anne Grant: So I don't think we're that ... We're different than a suburban, a dweller, an urban, or even suburban dweller, but we're not that different. We have property, we have income. We're safe that way. We're in our golden years. We get the golden years.

Jeff: Yeah. Yeah. Well, every year, Mike who's 10 now, and even though she's a bit of a hoarder of cash, he's got more cash and she'll admit, but I wouldn't say she's flash to buy me things for my birthday, but instead of buying me anything, every year she gives me a coupon book. You ever seen one of these?

Anne Grant: I have.

Jeff: And they're assembled with great love and care. They're sort of bound with yarn or ribbon and on each there'll be maybe a dozen coupons in there, and I'll open them up and there'll be like three, 10 minute walks on back. She walks on my back. She's right at the right weight to be able to do that, or he know too walks in the neighborhood with dad.

Anne Grant[crosstalk 00:52:01] nice stuff time.

Jeff: [crosstalk 00:52:03] nice stuff, yeah. So I was thinking that for your next birthday, that I would give you a coupon book.

Anne Grant: Oh boy, yeah. I can't wait.

Jeff: And that there'll be some redemptions for like 10 changes of diaper.

Anne Grant: Oh, boy.

Jeff: Oh, that's big.

Anne Grant: Oh, boy. That's big.

Jeff: And let me just tell you, because I have a lot of experience in how I use the coupons. I have to be very sparing with the use because it's a whole another year-

Anne Grant: Correct.

Jeff: ... till I get another coupon book. So it takes a lot of proper spacing and thinking about that.

Anne Grant: Oh, you're telling me I got a space for my 10 diapers?

Jeff: That's right.

Anne Grant: Okay. Well, I'm hoping and will be grateful if I get one a day. so [inaudible 00:53:01].

Jeff: Yeah.

Anne Grant: You better say a hundred.

Jeff: Yeah. Maybe spaced out over a decade. All right.

Anne Grant: Okay.

Jeff: Well, you're going home. You're going to back to [inaudible 00:53:13].

Anne Grant: Correct. I just want to point, say one more thing. I do a lot of reading about different cultures. It's another one of my tropes, along with the Nazi trope, which I also do. So I've read a Farley Mowat book. Are you familiar with him? Anyway, he's written a book called People of the Deer. Those people are gone now. They were up there in Canada, up there near the Arctic Circle. Not all the way up into the, but very cold. And they hunted and live doth reindeer basically, and other things, and, Oh, they're gone, they're gone. Their culture is gone, because the reindeer went and that was how their culture ... So it's a tragic greed because culture has died too.

Jeff: Yeah.

Anne Grant: And he shares, a couple of times he saw, they don't really have ... At least he couldn't figure out that they had a creator, God. They didn't have that kind of a religion, like that kind of a thing. And they certainly didn't get together on Sunday, and do anything or Shabbat. They, whatever. He couldn't see any evidence of that, but he would see these hunters go out and shit and look out at a sunset for easily an hour or two or some evanescent flower that was going to come and go in a very, and just stare and look at it. And that spirit it's just like, "Ah, we all have it, no matter how primitive the tribe, we're all in that together. The wanting and finding meaning and spirit."

Jeff: Yeah. Yeah. 

Leading teachers, life-changing courses...

Your path to a happier, healthier life

Get access to our library of over 100 courses on health and nutrition, spirituality, creativity, breathwork and meditation, relationships, personal growth, sustainability, social impact and leadership.

Try Membership Free for 14 Days

Stay connected with Commune

Receive our weekly Commusings newsletter + free course announcements!