An Ephemeral Light: The Question of Death in the Artwork of Children who are Dying


  • Katherine Wong University of Calgary



The question of death, and what happens after, is a query with no certain answer. Philosophers, scientists, artists, poets, and healthcare providers have grappled with the question of death and how best to answer it. Children with life-limiting illnesses (LLI) who face death in childhood are in a unique situation where their typical sources of information (i.e., the adults in their lives) may not be able to come up with a suitable answer when asked what happens when we die. As Plato stated, there is an inner child in all of us who is not totally convinced by assurances of an afterlife. What children with LLI understand of death and dying is not always easily conveyed in everyday language, but can be revealed in their artistic forms of expression. Artwork, poetry, and stories seem to carry the unintelligibility of death so that both children and adults may cope with it.

Keywords: children, life-limiting illness, understanding death, pediatric palliative care, hermeneutic philosophy

Author Biography

Katherine Wong, University of Calgary

Katherine (Kate) Wong is a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Nursing at the University of Calgary. A pediatric palliative care nurse in practice, her thesis topic is examining the art of children who are dying or experiencing Life Limiting Illnesses.