One morning, a few weeks ago, I was looking through a stack of magazines and was struck by the cover of the November 2000 issue of the magazine “Shambhala Sun”. The cover photograph portrayed a young man sitting on a haystack awkwardly holding his dying elderly father on his lap in a distinctly uncomfortable posture. Dad is wearing only a very large diaper. The caption reads:

“I brought him outside to let the sun touch him one last time”.

Beneath that, there was a heading which read:

"With Love & Awareness: A Buddhist Approach to Caring for the Dying".


Flipping through the pages, I saw another 16 photographs taken by former fashion photographer, Dean Tokuno, in the photo essay entitled... "Dad". I have no doubt they were good photographs from a photographer's perspective and, in fact, "Dad" won the 1999 Ernst Haas Award, in recognition of the best personal work by a professional photographer. But, seeing them couched in a Buddhist magazine that regularly expounds love, awareness and compassion, I couldn't help but think that these photographs had more to do with the son's image of himself as compassionate than they did with his father.

If you’d had a stroke, were physically and mentally incompetent and dying, would you want your son to take photographs of you sitting on the toilet using your walker to bang your head against the wall?
sitting at the kitchen table, with a completely befuddled expression on your face?
leaning against a bathroom sink for support, wearing a diaper?
gasping your last breath, your face contorted in a death rattle?
And then have them printed in a magazine?
Is that how you would want to be remembered?

I don't think so.

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