The series finale of Six Feet Under is, to date, the single most moving television finale I have watched in my entire life. And people? I have watched a lot of television.
I’ve seen the finale, “Everyone’s Waiting,” numerous times. At the episode’s very beginning, when I watch Brenda push Willa Fisher Chenowith from her womb, my heart starts to flutter in my chest. When I watch the family toast to their lost brother, Nate, at Claire’s farewell dinner, my heart stops fluttering and begins breaking instead. My breathing becomes shallower. I feel anxiety creeping up on me.
By the time Sia’s song “Breathe Me” starts playing and I watch Claire driving through the desert en route to her new life in New York, I have fallen over the edge. I sob. There are tissues and tears and snot involved. It’s not pretty.
Part of me wants to purchase that song, to play it over and over until I’m immune to its effects. The other part of me is terrified of listening to it more than once a year, if at all.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about why this particular episode impacts me so much, why that one song played at the very end makes me physically ache. Obviously, it’s the culmination of the entire series, arguably one of the best series in the history of the small screen and one of my favorite series of all time. On top of that, the episode is just so damn human (and my heart is one big ball of mush). It reflects the craziness of families that we’ve all experienced – the dysfunctional relationships, the politics, the secrets and the overwhelming love for people you don’t always especially like.
“Everyone’s Waiting” gets me thinking about my life, about the people I love, about the people who love me and about what I’m seeking in my short time on this planet. As I watch what happens to each of the characters, as I witness what happens to them at the ends of their respective lives, I can’t help but consider how I will feel when my loved ones begin to die. Will I have regrets? How will I cope? Will I want to cope if my husband dies before me? Will the people I loved know how much I loved them? Do they know I will continue to love them even though I can’t hold them anymore?
I treasure Six Feet Under for prodding me to ask those questions. I have a hunch it’s gotten other people asking themselves questions, too. Not only that, I can almost guarantee the show has been spurring dialogue about death and its role in our lives since Six Feet Under premiered in 2001. That’s revolutionary, if you ask me. I come from a family that doesn’t discuss death much, but I truly want to live in a world where we talk about such a regular occurrence. I believe with every piece of my heart and soul that candid conversations are the healthiest way to deal with what hurts us most.
For Six Feet Under, and especially for “Everyone’s Waiting,” I give many thanks to Alan Ball and all the other incredible people who brought the show to life (pun possibly intended). They sculpted a dark, bleak, often taboo topic into a piece of art teeming with love, life and brutal honesty.