Party with a Purpose

Saturday, June 24: 50th Birthday Fundraiser for Death Talk Goes to the Movies

Help support the valuable community resource, the Clinton Street Theater, and our monthly movie series, Death Talk Goes to the Movies.

The Clinton Street Theater opens its doors to so many community groups, and is now in the third year of hosting our monthly movie night. While our Death Talk films and discussion always get rave reviews, the donations at the door aren’t covering the theater’s booking costs. Read More

“We’re Meant to Carry Each Other”

Shroud hand-made by Chris, a steward at White Eagle Memorial Preserve.

DIY Coffin Clubs, Handmade Caskets and Shrouds

Some retirees join bowling teams or bridge clubs. But every Tuesday night in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand, several dozen gather to engage in what the New York Times reports is “a hobby that has gathered followers across New Zealand” – building coffins.

The Hawke’s Bay D.I.Y. Coffin Club has 120 members, average age in their mid-70s. Following the lead of a palliative care nurse who started the country’s first coffin club in her backyard, the clubs build the coffins from particleboard kits that cost around $170.

More than a good deal, getting together to build coffins with others builds community. Read More

Die Remembering

L’Envers, in the Italian Piedmont, ancestral home of my mother’s people; click image to read about my trip back with my mother.

Some thoughts on the eve of an ancestral pilgrimage

Among the promises of a better life and a better death that fill my in-box is this recent promotion for a high-profile event dedicated to remembrance:

“…embracing our roots, family histories and feelings of loss can create unparalleled opportunities for self-awareness, personal growth and creative fulfillment.”

As an ardent believer in remembrance, and a practitioner of remembrance as a creative act, I might have held out this carrot myself, a few years back. But I’m now persuaded that treating remembrance as one more commodity in the spiritual marketplace of self-improvement schemes for self-fulfillment is part of the problem, not a solution. Read More

The Dilemma of Death & Language of Loss: A Conversation

Register for the full conference with the promo code DISCOUNT50, and $50 will be deducted from the price of your general admission ticket! Click image to go to conference page.
“Palliative care is one place where euphemisms go to enjoy job security and long life.” Stephen Jenkinson, Die Wise

Join me at the 7th Annual Afterlife Conference in Portland June 1-4, 2017 (see image caption for a great $50 discount) where I’ll facilitate a May 31st opening night community discussion on the language we use: The Dilemma of Death & Language of Loss: A Conversation.

Read on to meet the panelists who will get our May 31st conversation started: Karen Wyatt, MD, hospice physician and founder of End-of-Life UniversityWilliam Peters, MFT, MEd, director of The Shared Crossing Project, a research initiative to examine the shared-death experience; and Austyn Wells, spiritual medium who combines her certification in grief counseling with shamanism, energy medicine, and intuitive client interaction.  Read More

Keening: “To Publicly Display, Articulate & Channel the Grief of a Community”

The Irish Keening Woman (Library of Ireland)

Among the phrases I hear most often in my work as a funeral celebrant is,  “I don’t want anyone to be sad.” Among the most common sounds at a burial service: silence. Only rarely do I hear the bereaved cry out.

“Grief has become private, to be contained, controlled,” says Irish broadcaster Marie-Louise Muir in her BBC Radio documentary, Songs for the Dead, reflecting that her own daughters had never been to a wake, once considered the most Irish of traditions. “How very different in the time of keening, when women were paid to cry, sing, and wail over the dead, to publicly display, articulate, and channel the grief of a whole community.” Read More