'Death Class' puts emphasis on living fully

As a reporter, Erika Hayasaki covered disasters and American tragedies, but it wasn't until she took a college course on death that she began to understand the difference between the good and the bad way to end.

The class was called "Death in Perspective," and Hayasaki sat in on it for a Los Angeles Times "Column One" story in September 2008. Taught by professor Norma Bowe, the course at New Jersey's Kean University has a three-year waiting list.

Bowe is a former nurse with a "fondness for cemeteries and could spend hours … kicking back on a freshly mowed patch of grass next to the grave of a stranger," writes Hayasaki in her new book, "The Death Class: A True Story About Life" (Simon & Schuster, $25.00). Although she may sound like a character from a Tim Burton film, Bowe is a woman with an abundance of enthusiasm for daily life. She is a teacher with a drive to change attitudes toward, well, expiration and being alive.

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