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Death photos: A sacred tradition

Photo for EndNotes blog. (Courtesy Photo / The Spokesman-Review)
Photo for EndNotes blog. (Courtesy Photo / The Spokesman-Review)

People in modern times are sometimes astonished to learn that it was traditional to once take photos of deceased loved ones in repose after they died. That's why in family photo albums from 100 years ago, you find photos of people in caskets. It's done still, but rarely.

A friend named Kathleen gave me permission to post this photo of her aunt, Cecile Michaud, who died Nov. 11, 1924 at Sacred Heart Hospital. She was 4 years, 8 months old. It's the only photo she has of the aunt she never knew, of course, and it was taken by Libby Photo Studio in Spokane.

She died of mononucleosis with whooping cough listed as a secondary cause on her death certificate, which Kathleen also has in her possession.

I'm not sure our modern culture would handle a tradition such as this very well now. The Internet makes it possible to use these photos in not respectful ways.

But I invite your thoughts on this.

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Spokesman-Review features writer Rebecca Nappi, along with writer Catherine Johnston of Olympia, Wash., discuss here issues facing aging boomers, seniors and those experiencing serious illness, dying, death and other forms of loss.