In my research, interviews and casual discussion about conversations about death, people often report that the first discussion they have about death with their parents is “Go around the house and claim what you’ll want when I die”. While this might seem morbid, physical objects are a very stable foundation to jump off from when beginning the death preparation process. Conversations aims to both facilitate this activity in a meaningful way by allowing both parties to attach history and meaning to possessions, recording the information for posterity, and strengthening their interpersonal bond as a result.
Participants (presumably an elderly parent and their adult child), each draw a card from a deck. On the front of the cards, there are prompts such as
- a reminder of a happy time
- a reminder of a difficult time
- a reminder of a time we shared
- a reminder of my childhood
- a reminder of you
- a reminder of a major event
Participants either split up and find the item, if it is on display or in accessible storage, or think of the item if it is not readily available. They then fill out the back of the card with information about the object, where and when the acquired it, and why they chose it for the prompt. Participants then regather — immediately, or after days or weeks (or one family gathering to another) and discuss their objects as they relate to the prompt, the history of their objects, and the future of their objects. The card can then be stored with the object to be passed down to whoever inherits it.
This activity will provide a bonding experience for participants as well as provide an opportunity to record important information about an individual’s story that can be passed down to future generations