Dying in Community

25 participants gathered at Columbia Ecovillage for the inaugural “When I Die Dialogue”

An antidote to “My life. My death. My way.”

While considering one’s death has been central to many spiritual and cultural traditions through the ages, the modern incarnation in our individualistic, me-first society can become something of a vanity project.

“Get the funeral you want by planning it yourself” is one guidebook’s promise. (“Put the F-U-N back in funeral!”) It’s an understandable impulse at a time when institutional, commercially-directed funerals have become such a bad brand that many (my father included) don’t want to see a penny wasted on rites or ritual to mark their death.

The idea that one’s death is solely “our own” is an assertion unique, I’m pretty sure, to this time and place in the world. How might our deaths be about more than ourselves, tethered to the wheel of life, embedded in community? Read More

A Sad Farewell to the Man Who Started a Movement

Six years ago, a man and his mother started a worldwide movement. The 50-country-strong Death Café community is rocked today by news of the sudden death of founder Jon Underwood.

Jon, who inspired, guided, and supported hundreds of volunteer hosts and whose work impacted untold thousands, died suddenly on Tuesday 27th June from an undiagnosed Acute Promyelocytic Leukaemia.  He was 44.

As for me, I consider myself enormously privileged to have shared a number of conversations with Jon. He generously made himself available across 8 time zones to advise me as I organized the first PDX Death Café in 2013. Among Jon’s gifts were clarity of vision and focus, and humble but firm directness in communicating that vision and maintaining the focus.

I was one of the plethora of hosts who veered from the simple and effective model that defines the Death Café brand. In those heady early years, Jon patiently conveyed to me the necessity of respecting Death Café guidelines if using the name, while never discouraging other approaches to talking about death. Jon’s integrity and skillful boundary-setting, along with his extraordinary generosity, will remain touchstones for me until the end of my days.

It’s not an overstatement to say that Death Café changed the course of my life. I know many can say the same. The ripples from Jon’s life will be washing up on shores around the world for years to come. I’m deeply saddened by news of his death, and deeply grateful for the way he chose to spend his days. Read More

An Afternoon with the Threshold Choir

click to download flier
Crossing the Threshold: Sunday, July 23 in Portland

Over my years as a Celebrant and Home Funeral Guide, I’ve had the pleasure of collaborating with the Threshold Choir a number of times – even receiving their soothing song-presence myself, in a time of depletion. (Read more in my post Swaddled by Song.)

Now, as part of an international gathering of Threshold singers, they’re issuing this invitation to you:

Come join us for an afternoon of song, presence and reflection. Through words, music, silence and movement, we’ll explore thresholds that may be calling for attention in our lives. Those present may choose to receive personalized song-care, walk a labyrinth, and contribute to a communal art project. Bring a journal and water bottle, if desired.


  • Sunday, July 23, 2:30-4:30pm
  • Flanagan Chapel, Lewis & Clark College
  • Doors open at 2:00pm
  • Cost: FREE ~ donations welcome
  • Free parking: use Entrance 2 (Griswold, Fir Acres lots) or Entrance 4 (Akin lot) for ADA.
  • For more information, please contact Kri at [email protected].



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