By Paul Bennett
My father died over 10 years ago in a hospice in Northern England. I was living in California at the time and as it became clear that he was close to the end, I called to say I was getting on a flight to London the next day to come see him. “Please don’t,” he said calmly. “I don’t need you to see me like this.” We said goodbye. He died two weeks later.
It wasn’t easy for me to stay faithful to his wishes and stay away, but in that moment I understood that my father was doing something I do every day — he was being a designer. He didn’t have many tools of the trade left: paralyzed with cancer, he was wired to the wall and unable to move — but he could still make a decision to spare me an image of him in a painfully diminished state. He didn’t want to be remembered that way, and this was the one small way in which he could still design his own death.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea lately. I know that we can’t choose the what, why, or when of our death, but can we do more to design the how? It provides me with some comfort.
What do you have faith in?
How can faith help us deal with events outside of our understanding or control?
Paul Bennett is a keen educator, thought leader, and writer, and serves as IDEO’s Chief Creative Officer.