Learning to Face Our Greatest Fears

Not everyone is comfortable discussing, let along on stage in front of strangers. Many of us fear death or are in denial about the end of life. Some psychologists say accepting our own mortality can help us embrace life and live our lives more fully and passionately.

Ned Buskirk

You’re Going to Die is an open mic event hosted by performance artist Ned Buskirk. It takes place at The Lost Church, an intimate theater in the Mission district of San Francisco. The monthly event features amateur storytellers, poets, and musicians. The evening starts when Buskirk casually wanders on stage, dressed in a T-shirt and baseball cap. He then gets the crowd energized by having them say in unison “I am going to die.”

You’re Going to Die started in Buskirk’s apartment with a few of his friends, following the death of his mother in 2003. It quickly grew and now draws a sell-out crowd of at least seventy people, most of them in their 20s and 30s. The event attracts people from all walks of life—artists, doctors, and professionals.

“It’s hard to say what brings everybody to You’re Going to Die,” said Buskirk, “It could be that someone’s just lost someone and they meet a friend who says ‘you should go to this—it really helped me after my dad died or my friend died.’ ”


Everyone who signs up for the open mic has five minutes on stage. Some people use their time to share personal stories and speak candidly about loss and grief. Others recite poetry or prose. Musicians take the stage to perform their original songs.

Some who sign up for the open mic are young medical professionals who are witnessing death for the first time. You’re Going to Die offers them an outlet for sharing their frustrations, their sadness, and their grief. Others have lost parents, close relatives, or friends and these deaths remind them of their own mortality. Tracy, a participant at one of the open mic nights, was sobbing as she shared her fears about her brother who had been recently diagnosed with a terminal illness. “I don’t want this to be happening,” she said, “What’s going in my head is ‘we’re all going to die, we’re all going to die.’ ”

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