HBM113: The Last Ones

Bethany Denton’s been thinking about grief a lot lately. In 2017, two of her friends, a mother and a daughter, died unexpectedly just two months apart. Since then, Bethany’s started seeing grief in just about everything, including a caribou at Woodland Park Zoo that dropped her antlers after a miscarriage.

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Content Note:

- Language
- Death

Bethany’s good friend, Jesse Brenneman has also been thinking a lot about grief. It was his mother and sister who died in 2017. And shortly after that, his grandfather and father died too. So over the span of a year and two months, Jesse lost his entire immediate family.

HBM064: A Shinking Shadow, in which Bethany talks to Jesse’s sister Erin about her eating disorder.

When Bethany told Jesse about the grieving caribou mother who’d dropped her antlers after miscarriage, Jesse suggested contacting his next door neighbor Ben Long. Ben is a writer and conservationist with an affinity for caribou.

On a snowy January morning, the three of them drove out to the Flathead National Forest outside of Kalispell, Montana for a walk in the woods. They hoped to find caribou tracks in the snow. Caribou used to be plentiful in northwestern Montana and throughout the continental United States. These days, due to deforestation and destruction of their habitat, the caribou population in the lower 48 could be as low as three animals.

You may recognize Jesse’s voice from his time as a producer for WNYC’s On The Media. Today he is a freelancer of many disciplines living and working in Missoula, Montana.

Face the Racist Nation, a piece produced by Jesse Brenneman for WNYC’s On The Media.

Music: Jesse Brenneman | | | The Black Spot

HBM057: Impostor in a Pink Pinstripe Suit [EXPLICIT]

Growing up in small-town Montana, Bethany Denton's parents and teachers told her what she knew already: she was brilliant.  Bethany couldn't help but feel destined for something big, even though she often skipped her school readings and phoned it in.  Why try hard when you already know everything?

Bethany in her pink pinstripe suit at her final tournament. Photo by Katy Allen-Schmidt.

Bethany in her pink pinstripe suit at her final tournament. Photo by Katy Allen-Schmidt.

In high school, Bethany joined the speech and debate team and started winning medals in an event called Serious Oral Interpretation.  One afternoon Bethany went to the bookstore and stumbled across a monologue by American author Joyce Carol Oates entitled Nuclear Holocaust, from her play I Stand Before You Naked.   It's a first-hand account of a religiously devout and mentally unstable Southerner who eagerly awaits the world's destruction. It was the perfect kind of material for a Serious Oral Interpretation monologue, so Bethany bought the book. Her dramatic performance of this piece soon won her a trip to Las Vegas to compete against teenagers from across the country.

Bethany spent the next couple months slacking off, per usual.  Later that summer in Las Vegas, Bethany steps in front of a room full of strangers and realizes that she's made a huge mistake.

Bethany Denton wrote and produced this story, with editing help from Jeff Emtman and Nick White from KCRW. Track image by Angie Foreman.

Music: The Black Spot ||| Flower Petal Downpour

HBM051: Sister Bethany, Proxy for the Dead

Bethany Denton was about five years old when she learned that she was a Mormon. When she was eight, she learned that she was an eternal spirit destined for an eternal afterlife.  The idea of eternity terrified her, and made her afraid to stargaze into the boundless universe.

When she got older, Bethany was allowed to enter the Mormon temple in Billings, Montana to act as the proxy in baptisms for the dead.

"Mormon Baptism" by Frederick Hawkins Piercy (1830-1891), a Mormon artist.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was founded in 1830, and has practiced baptisms for the dead (or "baptism by proxy") since 1840. This practice intends to give dead people the opportunity to join the church in the afterlife from Spirit Prison, where all souls wind up. Mormon teenagers are eligible to serve as a proxy when they turn twelve years old.  Over the course of her adolescence, Bethany was the proxy for about 30 dead people. 

When Bethany was seventeen, the late prophet Gordon B. Hinckley tasked the youth of the LDS church to read the Book of Mormon cover to cover. Bethany took him up on his challenge, and started noticing inconsistencies that made her question (and ultimately lose) her faith. She doesn't go to church anymore and hasn't for almost ten years, but she's still a member of the church, and always will be...unless she sends a formal letter of resignation.

Today, Bethany Denton is the Managing Editor of Here Be Monsters and loves to marvel at outer space.  She co-produced this piece with Jeff Emtman, along with help from Nick White, our editor at KCRW. Track image by Kyle Keenan.

Music: The Black Spot