"I don't like that word. Don't say it."
I knew full well what the young man meant, but I pressed him anyway.
"Which word was that?"
"You know. Don't make me say it."
"Ohhh! Do you mean the word 'dead'?"
"Don't say it!"
"Why? Death is a part of living. We all will have to die one day."
"Not me. I refuse to do it."
By this time his classmates were beginning to snicker.
"Angel is immortal...he's gonna live forever."
"You know, most of us feel that way when we are young. Like we are going to live forever. Unless someone that we are close to dies, or gets very sick. That's when reality brings us into check. How many of you have been to the funeral of someone who died young?"
More than half of the hands went up.
Death and dying is not usually a topic one would expect to be discussing in a high school art class, but I was preparing them for a video we would be watching about organ donation. An area organization called Life Bank sponsors an annual poster contest for high school students aimed to encourage young people to become organ donors.
The video made us think about a topic most people try to avoid.
It was a documentary about teenagers whose lives were saved by an organ transplant, and interviews with the families of young organ donors.
After the video, my students started thinking and talking and asking quetions. I love when that happens.
Difficult topics make for the best discussions, and the most opportunities for learning. Today's discussion might even save a life someday.
Most of my students who answered 'No' to the question "Would you like to be an organ donor?", after today's class, will now be answering 'Yes'.