Americans view death way differently than other cultures. This woman wants to change that.

Joanna Ebenstein's grandmother confessed to her in private — not because she had a secret to tell, but because no one else wanted to hear it.

Grandma was in her 90s by then and had been with her husband for over 70 years before he passed away. She was eager to die herself and join her beloved, and she told Ebenstein as much.

"It was painful for me to hear, and it made me sad," Ebenstein says. "But at the same time, it made me think: How did we get to this point in our society where just about the most important thing you could say to another human being has become taboo? And what does that say about us?"


Dina and Benno Ebenstein. Image from TEDx Talks/YouTube.

When Ebenstein visited Europe for the first time after college, she was struck by the presence of death in culture and art.

"Contemporary American attitudes towards death are so jarringly different from any other time or place," she says. "It’s almost paradoxical to us, the idea that death and beauty could be intertwined in one object. And yet if you go to Europe and you visit churches and museums, you see literally thousands of objects that do this."

She wondered: how did we become the ones who don't talk about this?

"Americans want the good without the bad," Ebenstein says. "Life without death. Pleasure without pain. Light without dark. But that doesn’t exist."

Ebenstein began to collect and analyze death-related objects, images, and customs from around the world in hopes of better understanding American perspectives around death. Some of that research led her to create a photo exhibition about medical museums in 2007.

A few artifacts from Ebenstein's collection. Photo provided by Joanna Ebenstein. Used with permission.

As a supplement to the project, Ebenstein launched a blog called Morbid Anatomy, which quickly took on a life of its own beyond the photo exhibition. It grew into a lecture series, then a dedicated gallery space in Brooklyn, New York, called the Morbid Anatomy Library, where visitors could check Ebenstein’s collection of books and artifacts.

Morbid Anatomy grew a cult following and expanded until it was more than the space could contain. There was clearly an interest and need for this kind of open, honest examination of death and our relationships to mourning.

After a lecture one Halloween, Ebenstein met Tracy Hurley Martin.

Martin and her twin sister, Tonya Hurley, came from a family in the mortuary business, which had always informed their aesthetics and interests. They were traveling to Mexico to learn more about Santa Muerte, a popular new religion also known as the church of Our Lady of the Holy Death. The sisters ended up donating some artifacts to the library, and Martin and Ebenstein got to talking about how there should be an entire permanent cafe or shop just like Morbid Anatomy.

A shrine to Santa Muerte in Mexico. Photo by Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images.

With help from a talented team of architects, they turned a vacant bakery space into the Morbid Anatomy Museum, which opened its doors in 2014.

The museum drew visitors from all over the world — some from the same group who supported the original space. But it also drew families, medical professionals, and, interestingly enough, lots of young people. Ebenstein credits the museum’s appeal to its irreverent playfulness and intentionally amateurish, almost DIY aesthetic.

Martin recalls the first exhibition, "Art of Mourning," which showcased how people during the Victorian era memorialized their dead through hair art, photographs, death masks, and jewelry. "Visitors came and felt an openness to share their own personal experiences and talk about traditions surrounding death in their own families," she says. "I remember being there and people opening up about death, this taboo topic. That’s when I realized we did something special."

Outside the Morbid Anatomy Museum. Photo provided by Joanna Ebenstein. Used with permission.

But changing America's taboo around death was not financially viable, and the museum closed after two and a half years.

The rising costs of New York City real estate and a decline in charitable donations meant the death of the museum.

“We always said our mission was devoted to things that fall between the cracks. Well, we also fell between the cracks of funding," Ebenstein says. "We tried to apply for art grants but were told we weren’t 'art' enough. We tried to apply for cultural grants, but we weren’t quite that. We weren’t any one of those things, which is what made the museum special — but also what made it difficult to fund."

Inside the museum. Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for Showtime.

While the Morbid Anatomy Museum itself might be dead, the movement to change America's mourning culture is more alive than ever, and women like Ebenstein and Martin are at the forefront.

It’s making a resurgence everywhere from coloring books to rock 'n' roll musicals to sustainability in the funeral industry. There are death salons where people gather to talk about the topic and a whole new movement taking shape around the idea of "death positivity" — and just like the Morbid Anatomy Museum, they're all the brainchildren of brilliant women.

"Why does this stuff appeal to women more? If there was an easy answer, it wouldn’t be interesting. But I know it’s an important question,” Ebenstein says. “Birth and death are linked to the feminine in ancient gods. Maybe it was something to do with natural cycles that we’re more attuned to. Or maybe women are more embodied in themselves, arguably. We bleed every month. We have babies. So we can’t be as squeamish about the body. We just don’t have that luxury."

Femininity can be seen in deities across cultures, including Santa Muerte, the Chinese moon goddess Chang'e, and Persephone, queen of the underworld in ancient Greece. Images via Not home/Wikimedia Commons, the Metropolitan Museum of Art/Wikimedia Commons, and Jebulon/Wikimedia Commons.

Death used to be a part of everyday American lives. People used to die in their homes instead of hospitals. Life expectancy was lower, and child mortality was more common.

Then something changed.

Ebenstein suggests the shift happened in the early 20th century. While the rest of world was dealing with destruction from world wars and conflicts in emerging nations, Americans moved death offstage. It was outsourced to funeral homes for profit, and the parlors where we once laid our dead were turned into "living rooms." Death became distant to us, and we continued to push it further away, until it became an even more terrifying mystery.

But ignoring something doesn’t make it disappear. Perhaps if we come together to acknowledge our shared humanities — and the fact that we all meet the same end — we wouldn’t have to be so afraid. Because without death, it's impossible to celebrate life.

True

We're redefining what normal means in these uncertain times, and although this is different for all of us, love continues to transform us for the better.

Love is what united Marie-Claire and David Archbold, who met while taking a photography class. "We went into the darkroom to see what developed," they joke—and after a decade of marriage, they know firsthand the deep commitment and connection romantic love requires.

All photos courtesy of Marie-Claire and David Archbold

However, their relationship became even sweeter when they adopted James: a little boy with a huge heart.

In the United States alone, there are roughly 122,000 children awaiting adoption according to the latest report from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. While the goal is always for a child to be parented by and stay with their biological family, that is not always a possibility. This is where adoption offers hope—not only does it create new families, it gives birth parents an avenue through which to see their child flourish when they are not able to parent. For the right families, it's a beautiful thing.

The Archbolds knew early on that adoption was an option for them. David has three daughters from a previous marriage, but knowing their family was not yet complete, the couple embarked on a two-year journey to find their match. When the adoption agency called and told them about James, they were elated. From the moment they met him, the Archbolds knew he was meant to be part of their family. David locked eyes with the brown-eyed baby and they stared at each other in quiet wonder for such a long time that the whole room fell silent. "He still looks at me like that," said David.

The connection was mutual and instantaneous—love at first sight. The Archbolds knew that James was meant to be a part of their family. However, they faced significant challenges requiring an even deeper level of commitment due to James' medical condition.

James was born with congenital hyperinsulinism, a rare condition that causes his body to overproduce insulin, and within 2 months of his birth, he had to have surgery to remove 90% of his pancreas. There was a steep learning curve for the Archbolds, but they were already in love, and knew they were committed to the ongoing care that'd be required of bringing James into their lives. After lots of research and encouragement from James' medical team, they finally brought their son home.

Today, three-year-old James is thriving, filled with infectious joy that bubbles over and touches every person who comes in contact with him. "Part of love is when people recognize that they need to be with each other," said his adoptive grandfather. And because the Archbolds opted for an open adoption, there are even more people to love and support James as he grows.

This sweet story is brought to you by Sumo Citrus®. This oversized mandarin is celebrated for its incredible taste and distinct looks. Sumo Citrus is super-sweet, enormous, easy-to-peel, seedless, and juicy without the mess. Fans of the fruit are obsessive, stocking up from January to April when Sumo Citrus is in stores. To learn more, visit sumocitrus.com and @sumocitrus.

There have been many iconic dance routines throughout film history, but how many have the honor being called "the greatest" by Fred Astaire himself?

Fayard and Harold Nicholas, known collectively as the Nicholas Brothers, were arguably the best at what they did during their heyday. Their coordinated tap routines are legendary, not only because they were great dancers, but because of their incredible ability to jump into the air and land in the splits. Repeatedly. From impressive heights.

Their most famous routine comes from the movie "Stormy Weather." As Cab Calloway sings "Jumpin' Jive," the Nicholas Brothers make the entire set their dance floor, hopping and tapping from podium to podium amongst the musicians, dancing up and down stairs and across the top of a piano.

But what makes this scene extra impressive is that they performed it without rehearsing it first and it was filmed in one take—no fancy editing room tricks to bring it all together. This fact was confirmed in a conversation with the brothers in a Chicago Tribune article in 1997, when they were both in their 70s:

"Would you believe that was one of the easiest things we ever did?" Harold told the paper.

"Did you know that we never even rehearsed that number?" added Fayard.

"When it came time to do that part, (choreographer) Nick Castle said: 'Just do it. Don`t rehearse it, just do it.' And so we did it—in one little take. And then he said: 'That's it—we can't do it any better than that.'"

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True

We're redefining what normal means in these uncertain times, and although this is different for all of us, love continues to transform us for the better.

Love is what united Marie-Claire and David Archbold, who met while taking a photography class. "We went into the darkroom to see what developed," they joke—and after a decade of marriage, they know firsthand the deep commitment and connection romantic love requires.

All photos courtesy of Marie-Claire and David Archbold

However, their relationship became even sweeter when they adopted James: a little boy with a huge heart.

In the United States alone, there are roughly 122,000 children awaiting adoption according to the latest report from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. While the goal is always for a child to be parented by and stay with their biological family, that is not always a possibility. This is where adoption offers hope—not only does it create new families, it gives birth parents an avenue through which to see their child flourish when they are not able to parent. For the right families, it's a beautiful thing.

The Archbolds knew early on that adoption was an option for them. David has three daughters from a previous marriage, but knowing their family was not yet complete, the couple embarked on a two-year journey to find their match. When the adoption agency called and told them about James, they were elated. From the moment they met him, the Archbolds knew he was meant to be part of their family. David locked eyes with the brown-eyed baby and they stared at each other in quiet wonder for such a long time that the whole room fell silent. "He still looks at me like that," said David.

The connection was mutual and instantaneous—love at first sight. The Archbolds knew that James was meant to be a part of their family. However, they faced significant challenges requiring an even deeper level of commitment due to James' medical condition.

James was born with congenital hyperinsulinism, a rare condition that causes his body to overproduce insulin, and within 2 months of his birth, he had to have surgery to remove 90% of his pancreas. There was a steep learning curve for the Archbolds, but they were already in love, and knew they were committed to the ongoing care that'd be required of bringing James into their lives. After lots of research and encouragement from James' medical team, they finally brought their son home.

Today, three-year-old James is thriving, filled with infectious joy that bubbles over and touches every person who comes in contact with him. "Part of love is when people recognize that they need to be with each other," said his adoptive grandfather. And because the Archbolds opted for an open adoption, there are even more people to love and support James as he grows.

This sweet story is brought to you by Sumo Citrus®. This oversized mandarin is celebrated for its incredible taste and distinct looks. Sumo Citrus is super-sweet, enormous, easy-to-peel, seedless, and juicy without the mess. Fans of the fruit are obsessive, stocking up from January to April when Sumo Citrus is in stores. To learn more, visit sumocitrus.com and @sumocitrus.

You know that feeling you get when you walk into a classroom and see someone else's stuff on your desk?

OK, sure, there are no assigned seats, but you've been sitting at the same desk since the first day and everyone knows it.

So why does the guy who sits next to you put his phone, his book, his charger, his lunch, and his laptop in the space that's rightfully yours? It's annoying!

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via Seresto

A disturbing joint report by USA Today and the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting found that tens of thousands of pets have been harmed by Seresto flea and tick collars. Seresto was developed by Bayer and is now sold by Elanco.

Since Seresto flea collars were introduced in 2012, the EPA has received incident reports of at least 1,698 pet deaths linked to the product. Through June 2020, the EPA has received over 75,000 incident reports relating to the collars with over 1,000 involving human harm.

The EPA has known the collars are harming humans and their pets but failed to tell the public about the dangers.

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