'I'll Fly Away': An Oral History of Love, Loss and Leave-taking

Rozanne Gooding Silverwood

"I'm going to be a mess talking about this." Listening in on one family's conversations about death.

 

This installation was a part of HEAR & NOW: An Interactive Oral History Exhibit, showcasing multimedia projects and stories recorded by the 2017 cohort of Columbia University’s Oral History MA program. 

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With medical advances complicating concepts of life and death, family conversations about aging, dying and what constitutes a "good death" can be fraught. Breaching that forbidden zone requires tremendous courage and sensitivity--on the part of both speakers and listeners. This family's oral histories show how sharing death narratives and stories of personal loss can help us meet the end-of-life needs of our loved ones, support us as we bear the heartbreak of those losses, and ultimately aid us in negotiating the terms of our own inevitable leave-takings.

For her undergraduate degree in anthropology at Columbia University, Rozanne Gooding Silverwood researched her family's 19th century documents, genealogy records, and photographs to produce a thesis on indigenous identity and belonging entitled, "The Indigenous Uncanny: An Ethnography of Erasure and the Resurgence of Chickasaw Identity." For her current OHMA thesis project "I'll Fly Away," Ms. Silverwood once again puts her family's genealogy archive to use by incorporating recorded family narratives with seven generations of photographs and other material documents to co-construct a family history of death and loss.