Past Event

Complex Issues: Losing Helen

September 20, 2016
6:30 PM - 8:00 PM
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Buell Hall, East Gallery

Carol Becker’s Losing Helen is a first-person narrative essay of a daughter’s profound journey through the many phases in the process of losing her ninety-eight-year-old mother. As an only child, she must assume complete responsibility for the often absurd but necessary planning that illness and death require. At the same time, she must struggle with her overwhelming grief and confusion, trying to make sense of her mother’s life and her own. As she gradually comes to accept the inevitable loss, she focuses instead on finding ways to ensure a dignified and respectful passage, designing an end-of-life experience that is meaningful and sacred for them both.

In this compelling and thoughtful meditation, the author finds guidance in the spiritual insights of Simone Weil’s Gravity and Grace, the artwork of the Renaissance masters, Indian mythology, Buddhist philosophy, and the traditions of Catholicism and Judaism that are part of her interfaith heritage. Although unique in form,Losing Helen is reminiscent both in subject and depth of feeling of Simone de Beauvoir’s A Very Easy Death, Philip Roth’s Patrimony, and Roland Barthes’s Mourning Diaries.

Read an excerpt of Losing Helen in tricycle


About Complex Issues

Complex Issues explores difference, visibility, and representation through recent work by faculty of Columbia University and Columbia University School of the Arts in particular. On a monthly basis, conversations invite challenging questions of racial, ethnic, gender, economic, sexual, religious and cultural complexity, and how they are articulated across discipline and genre today.