Ethan Sisser, a young man afflicted with brain cancer, sits alone in his hospital room. When he begins live-streaming his death journey on social media, thousands of people around the world join him and celebrate his courage. Still, Ethan envisions more – to teach the world how to die without fear. To honor his final wish of filming his death, his doctor, Aditi Sethi, transports him to a quiet house in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Asheville, North Carolina. What unfolds next is a story that's rarely glimpsed: how a community of strangers helps an unhoused man die on his own terms.
A sensory immersion into leaving the body “The Last Ecstatic Days” reveals a man who will not let us forget him – even after he’s taken his final breath.
“Maybe There’s Another Way to Die.”
Reflections from Director Scott Kirschenbaum
Growing up I never had words to describe my agonizing fear of death.
I wanted to stay home from kindergarten on my fifth birthday because the thought of five years passing paralyzed me. Mortality-induced stomach aches ate at me throughout elementary school. The fear of my life ending, and perhaps nothing after, tormented me and eventually transformed into chronic depression.
So what was I supposed to do at the height of Covid when a stranger with terminal brain cancer named Ethan “E3” Sisser — about my age, whom I had never met — asked me to tell the story of his death?
He was 36, I was 40. Why him and not me? What kind of filmmaker am I if I didn’t honor Ethan’s request to document the end of his life?
Ethan started live-streaming the raw reality of his physical decline. But he wasn’t a downer; he lit up his corner of social media. All over the world people repeated his mantra: “I am embodied. I am empowered. I am ecstatic.” When I first saw Ethan on TikTok, I saw an unsung mensch.
He asked, begged, for permission to die in community, even among strangers.
We all want to feel brave enough to ask for love but who actually does? In his determination to not die a terribly lonely death Ethan turned brain cancer into a cause célèbre. He posed the unthinkable: “Can death be fun?”
The Last Ecstatic Days is radical because it laughs at taboo. It’s not simply a
film about death; it invites you to experience the full expanse of the death journey in order to live more fully.
“What if the next practice is to just be present and let go?”
Those were Ethan’s last words.
There is value in learning how to “let go” and leave the body with love, and that is Ethan Sisser’s legacy.