Stimp Hawkins Passes Away at Home Surrounded by Friends
Stimp Hawkins, tireless advocate for death education and conversation and the subject of a YES! Weekly feature story in January 2016, has passed away following a serious stroke. The stroke occurred on Saturday night, June 11 at his home. He was taken to the hospital for assessment Sunday morning and then back home with his wife Martha under Hospice care. Before Stimp passed away early Thursday morning, he was paralyzed and could not speak or swallow, though he appeared to be alert.
Per Stimp’s wishes, he was given medication only for pain. There were no IV’s, no fluids, no feeding tubes, no beeping machines. He died quietly at home about 4 a.m. on Thursday surrounded by those he loves. Stimp was 82 but his work with death began nearly thirty years ago when he became a Hospice chaplain and it continued without ceasing. Stimp would talk with anyone about death and dying; he saw the conversation as essential in bringing people to an awareness of what they wanted and involving their families. He would drill strangers in the grocery line, after a moment or two of pleasant conversation, on Advanced Directives, Living Wills, Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders, and MOST (Medical Scope of Treatment) forms. Martha carried Stimp’s MOST form to the hospital Saturday morning and the hospital staff were appreciative; they knew exactly how Stimp wanted to be treated.
Stimp was instrumental in setting up the first Death Cafes in Greensboro, an informal meeting where people can talk about grief, fear, mourning, the practicalities of caring for a dying loved one, or their own death. Stimp saw a CafÃ© Mortal meeting at Scuppernong Books as a perfect opportunity to rehearse his Celebration of Life, the kind of event he wants after he dies. A cardboard box the size of a coffin was delivered to the store and Stimp’s friends and family decorated the box with pictures, poetry, and quotes. This box is at his house now. It’s the box he’ll be cremated in. Following Stimp’s death, his body will be cared for in the home by Martha and members of his Crossings group. The group will wash and prepare the body while telling stories, crying, and sharing memories. After a day or two, the body will be picked up for cremation. Stimp is an ardent Buddhist. His friends mention this, imagining that as he waited for death, he is practicing the forms of meditation he has found so valuable for so long. A few weeks after Stimp’s death, it will be time for his Celebration of Life. There will be dancing, big band music, and ice cream. In January, he could hardly contain his enthusiasm. “I get so excited talking about it, I want to do it now,” Stimp said. “But if you do it before you die, people will just lie. I want folks to be able to talk about what a pain in the ass I was too.”