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Anticipating Departure...with smile.

How might we welcome death with open arms?

Photo of Lee-Jung Kim
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Who is your idea designed for and how does it reimagine the end-of-life experience?

This is for everyone who is participating in the experience of dying- patients, family, and caregivers.

Photo Credit:

“I am not afraid to die. I am afraid of losing you.”

When the death comes to us, we are going to leave this earth and everything that came with it will be left behind.

The memory. The laugh. The smile. The rain drops on my face. Smell of coffee. Ocean wave. Snow angels. night sky.

And just before the death (an hour, a day, a week), many fear that when they close their eyes, that will be the last memory they will have.

But what if...

What if…

We can welcome death? What if waiting for death is not a dreadful experience but an anticipation of unknown (like a child waiting for the first day of kindergarten – slightly anxious but excited to discover the unknown?)

What if we don't lose everything when we depart this earth?

There has to be a way!

As I am getting ready for my daughter’s first pre-K day, I am teaching my girl how to read, how to share, how to ask for help when she is lost...

I tell her, “Hannah, all the other kids will know how to read the book and you should, too otherwise you will be left alone.”

I tell her, “Hannah, you need to learn to share because when you go to Pre-K, everyone will be sharing and you don’t want to be the mean one to hold on to your stuff.”

I tell her, "Hannah, if you don't know what to do, you must ask."

Can we get ready for death with the anticipation like a child waiting for her first day of Pre-K (with excitement... although there is a bit of fear of unknown)?

Here are some ideas:


1. Create a room that she/he will be in when she/he dies so that she/he can feel comfortable in it. It could be her coffin or her grave. Decorate it with her/him.

2. Play with people who will be in the funeral. Who will she/he invite?

Create invitation cards together.

3. What will she need to learn before she dies so that she does not feel alone and left out when she dies? 

Create something that she can bring with her when she dies. (Storybook? A quilt? Blog page?)

Hospital staff:

1. Check list: patients must have these things before they die.

(For kindergarten, I needed to sign names of people who will be picking up my daughter, her immunization records, whether she needed extended hours, etc.)

What will that be? 

Perhaps a check list and recommended preparation kit?

2. End of life open house.

For kindergarten, they had an open house where children and parents were able to visit the facility and see how other children are interacting in the space.

Perhaps there could be a place where patients/family can experience a better end of life? Provide a tour of the end of life?

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

We will create several scenarios of first day of kindergarten like palliative care acceptance day.
Play it out in front of friends and get feedback.

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

Anyone who worked in early childhood education. Anyone who is experienced in creating a curriculum. What makes the first day of kindergarten most memorable? Anyone who can answer that and translate that to the last days on this earth experience.

Tell us about your work experience:

I am a transportation engineer who design the city streets. I particularly focus on pedestrian and transit modeling. I am a poet. I am a design thinker- currently working with amazing team of coaches at Cornell University. I am a member of NYC OpenIDEO chapter.

This idea emerged from

  • An OpenIDEO Outpost or Chapter
  • An Individual


Join the conversation:

Photo of Lee-Jung

Jocelyn Xie lorain hamilton Andrea Kang I would love to get your input!

Photo of lorain

Creating a death invite is brilliant ideas! It's an activity that bridges the gap of the unsettling topic of death because it's a conversation that blossomed into a activity. The caretakers', family members and child patients' can collectively craft their own death invite.  By everyone  engaging in this acfivity, it aides in shifting the attitude about death.

Photo of Lee-Jung

Thanks lorain hamilton . How can we make it more of an activity that one can ancitipate with excitement rather than dreading it? I am thinking it should not be like a homework that one doesn't want to do but like a class trip that kids want to enjoy. Thoughts?

Photo of lorain

A workshop trip  wouldn't be bad idea. We can partner up with outside businesses that are geared to entertain children and host a workshop there. The workshop is comprise of variant activities that can shape the ideals on death such as the invitae, storybook or quilt you mention  Lee-Jung Kim . Perhaps we can push  this workshop further and propose it to schools, so that children are familiarise with near-death before a loved or themselves are in that position.