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what are
death wings?

In Bess Welden’s play, Death Wings, the central character, Grand, shows us her invented end-of-life ritual and creative practice. When someone is dying, she asks them to tell her the story of their life in five sentences. She then collects paper, fabric, and fibers to craft a set of wings that she believes helps the person travel from this life to what comes next.


When her father was dying, Bess made a set of human-sized wings out of his handkerchiefs, neckties, pajamas, family photos, maps of places that were important to him, and other reclaimed materials. The hands-on, generative, and meditative process became an essential part of her grieving process. The wings are both a visual memorial and a way of letting go.

“To grieve is to be alive. To be human. And because it is a deeply human experience it benefits from being ritualized and having space held for it.”  –Center for Body Trust

Photo by Molly Haley

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