In National Geographic’s docuseries, ‘Limitless,’ actor Chris Hemsworth is put through a series of physical and mental challenges in the pursuit of a longer, healthier life. The Thor ‘Love & Thunder’ star tackles an epic 100-foot rope climb, swims in icy Arctic waters, and navigates the Australian Outback sans GPS.
And then he dies, at the hands of Alua Arthur.
Not literally, of course.
But in the sixth and final episode of the series, ‘Acceptance,’ Arthur and palliative care doctor BJ Miller help Hemsworth confront his own mortality. Hemsworth fast-forwards to the end of his life by becoming a resident of a made-for-the-show retirement community, Sunset Pines, for three days. There, he meets Arthur, a death doula who helps him confront and meditate on his (hopefully far off) death.
It sounds morbid, but Arthur is onto something. Accepting the fact that we’re all only in these skin suits forever is a science-backed way to improve your physical health and help you prioritize your goals.
But who is Arthur and what does she do? Here’s what you need to know.
She Wasn’t Always a Death Doula
Death doulas support individuals and their families through the end of life, just like birth doulas help bring babies into the world. But Arthur wasn’t always a death doula.
She left a legal career to help people through their final stages of life after meeting a woman who was dying of uterine cancer on a trip to Cuba. The women spent 14 hours together on a bus. “I remember have a very clear thought that if everybody is going to die, which we are, then we should be preparing for it,” she said in an End Well Project talk.
Later, after helping her sister and niece through her brother-in-law’s death from lymphoma, she decided to become a death doula.
She Gives FOMO the Middle Finger
“Being around death has made me more honest,” Arthur told The Cut in 2020. “I see that what we don’t say chokes us as we die. People always think they have more time, and when they realize that they don’t, they have regrets about things they haven’t done.
I try to do what I feel like doing right now. And if that means eating white-cheddar Cheetos for breakfast, I will. Which is what I did this morning. I won’t always be able to taste delicious things, so let me do it now.”
She’s the Founder of Going With Grace
Arthur founded end of life planning company Going with Grace to train others to become death doulas.
“Planning for the end of life saves considerable time, money, headache, and heartache for those we love most,” the site says. “Our clients can exist in the peace that their end-of-life wishes are known and their loved ones are supported after they are gone.”
She Believes Planning for Death Helps You Embrace Life
“Planning for our deaths is a really important tool and powerful way to help us understand what we value in our lives,” she told PBS News Hour.
“For example, when I’m thinking about my death, I’m thinking about my relationships, who I loved, how I loved them, whether or not I was loved. I’m thinking about my work. What imprint have I made on the world? I’m thinking about my legacy. Will anybody care after I’m gone?”
“My hope is that, from my work, people take away how precious this life is, that they really engage with this gift that we have been given to feel and to breathe and to eat and to have sex and to dance and to cry and to feel the full gamut of emotions while we’re here, because it’s very, very brief time that we’re here.”
She Knows How She Wants to Go Out
“I would love to be outside or by windows,” Arthur told The Cut. “I want to watch the sunset for the last time, and I want to have the people I love around, quietly talking, so that I know they’ve got each other after I leave. I want to have a soft blanket and a pair of socks because I hate it when my feet are cold. I want to smell nag champa incense and amber. And I want to hear the sound of running water, like a creek. I’d love to enjoy all those senses for the last time. And when I die, I want everybody to clap. Like, “Good job. You did it.”