As trusts and estates attorneys, we spend our professional lives planning for and adjudicating property issues. In fact, our probate code explicitly tells us at F.S. 731.105 that probate proceedings “are in rem proceedings.”
But before any of this property finds its way into one of our probate courts, someone has to die. And each one of those deaths is its own unique story. How should we think about those stories? Or discuss them with our clients? Or, as is sometimes necessary, address them in court?
It’s not something we’re taught in law school.
Which brings me to a beautifully written and thoughtfully constructed guide to writing—and reading—about death that trusts and estates attorneys should find especially engaging. It’s a collection of essays by Miami’s own Edwidge Danticat, entitled The Art of Death: Writing the Final Story. Part philosophy, part literary criticism, part prayer, Danticat explores death both in real life and in art.
Divided into short chapters with titles such as “Ars Moriendi,” “Wanting to Die,” “Close Calls,” and “Feetfirst,” Danticat’s The Art of Death is a quick read, but it’s packed with clear-eyed wisdom and grace that sticks with you long after you’ve put it down.
As an added bonus Danticat peppers her essays with a treasure trove of “on topic” quotes by dozens of writers, including Tolstoy, Camus, Chekhov, Gabriel García Márquez, Toni Morrison, Audre Lorde and Ta-Nehisi Coates. One of my favorites is this quote from The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje, which Danticat used as an epigraph to her book.
We die containing a richness of lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have plunged into and swum up as if rivers of wisdom, characters we have climbed into as if trees, fears we have hidden in as if caves. I wish for all this to be marked on my body when I am dead. I believe in such cartography—to be marked by nature, not just to label ourselves on a map like the names of rich men and women on buildings. We are communal histories, communal books.
Good stuff; highly recommended.