--2 Death in the Desert
         
Nov. 23, 2014

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Death in the Desert

October 16, 2009, 12:00 am
By Interns
Layout 1By Amy Kuhre, SFR Intern

Slide Presentation and Book Signing for Grave Images: San Luis Valley

5-7 pm
Friday,  Oct. 23


Free


Stewart Udall Conference Center
Museum Hill
725 Camino Lejo
476-1158


Imagine you're driving a large truck and the gears shudder to a halt,  when you jump down to see why it's stuck the truck suddenly jumps forward and drags you under its giant wheels. You die instantly. Kathy T. Hettinga poignantly recounts this story of her husband, Duane Williams' tragic death—and the impetus for her new book about graveyards surfaces. Grave Images: San Luis Valley is more than just an encyclopedia of morbidity; it's a tome of history, theology, and brilliantly composed snapshots of death in the desert. At times both tragic and alluring, her descriptions of the profound nature of these specific grave sites makes one want to create tombstones from found objects as a tribute to the deep emotion that is executed with the hammering of imperfect planks of wood to make a crucifix for a loved one' s grave. Of course, those who dwell in the San Luis valley can't afford to pay $1,000 for a headstone, so they create their own from scrap metal, paint, flowers, and 2x4's; and they're beautiful.

The story of Duane Williams' death is wrenching. But even more disturbing and actually outrageous are Kathy's memories of how his death was treated.

As Hettinga recalls from the text of Grave Images, "From the chapel I ask to see Duane, but medical personnel tell me he isn't ready yet and perhaps I shouldn't see him. I wait. I wait. I weep."

Amends have been made with the death of her husband. What still looms in Hettinga' s consciousness is the guarded treatment she received. Although she was told that Duane died instantly she still wanted to be with him, she wanted to examine the wound that symbolized his departure from their realm. Instead, the nurses and doctors, even the mortician decided what truths were suitable for Kathy.

Also from the text, she writes, "The mortician has placed a heavy white veil over the open casket to further disguise death. The room is filling with people. I haven't been left alone with him once."

imagesIn the narrative of her trauma she reinforces her message about the way we recognize (or fail to recognize) death as a culture. She mentions religion throughout in an attempt to resuscitate the concept of freedom that abounds in the exodus from this world to the next. And as easy as it is to abhor religion, Hettinga writes with such sincerity and leaves the preaching to the pictures. The book itself is a memorial to the landscape of Southern Colorado where Hattinga grew up. And with the desert backdrop tacked on the makeshift memorials resonate as intended.

Kathy T. Hettinga presents this 14-year project, along with a slide show of images, from her book on October 23.

Slide Presentation and Book Signing for Grave Images: San Luis Valley
5
-7 pm
Friday,  Oct. 23


Free


Stewart Udall Conference Center
Museum Hill
725 Camino Lejo
476-1158

 

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