Please join us on Tuesday, December 8, 2015 for an evening of heart-centered sharing about death and dying through poetry, music, and expressive exercises.
art and death
“In taking from us a being we have loved and venerated, death does not wound us without, at the same time, lifting us toward a more perfect understanding of this being and of ourselves.” —Rilke
Linda Bergh and Kyoko Katayama, MTN members, will guide this evening in exploring and sharing each others’ hopes and fears. We invite you to share a poem or image that has moved you.
Gathering will begin at 7pm at the home of Kyoko Katayama, 1474 Branston St., St. Paul, MN 55108 (Como Ave. Exit off 280, then off Como Ave – up the hill on Hendon near Luther Seminary) Phone: 651 485 7557.
MTN meetings are free and open to all.
tastier than death!

Photo by Kimberly Vardeman via Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons license.

This is a gathering unlike anything you’ve experienced: cider, dessert, and honest conversation about death and dying. Death isn’t the easiest topic, so we want you to feel like you’re among friends – welcome, relaxed, safe. Let’s have a conversation.

Sunday, Nov. 1 from 4 – 6 PM

People’s Food Co-op, 519 1st Ave. SW, Rochester, MN

Everyone has questions and opinions about death and dying, but we rarely get a chance to share them. We want to give you that chance. This is not an educational program or a grief support group. We don’t subscribe to a particular belief system, and we aren’t selling anything. Death & Dessert is an opportunity to explore our thoughts and feelings about our own mortality and our experiences around the loss of loved ones, in the distant or recent past. Viewing death as a natural part of the life cycle lessens our fear of it and frees us to live more fully and joyfully right now. When you leave Death & Dessert, we want you to feel more comfortable with death and more excited about life.

Space is limited; please RSVP by calling 289-1199, by noon, Friday Oct. 30.


“If you can begin to see death as an invisible, but friendly, companion on your life’s journey … then you can learn to live your life rather than simply passing through it.”

— Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, ‘Death and the Final Stage of Growth’


Photo from a vigil, used with permission of National Home Funeral Alliance

Photo from a vigil, used with permission of National Home Funeral Alliance

Tuesday, November 10, 2015: The Vigil Project: a theatrical presentation by Mayo Clinic chaplain Mary E. Johnson

The Vigil Project presents death vigil stories of everyday people. Mary E. Johnson, creator of The Vigil Project, was chaplain at Mayo Clinic for over 30 years. Since most people don’t have many opportunities for vigil experiences, the Vigil Project gives voice to vigils’ healing potential.
Mary E. Johnson of the Vigil Project

Mary E. Johnson of the Vigil Project

After the presentation will be Q&A and sharing of other before-death and after-death vigil experiences.

The meeting begins at 7pm at the home of Linda Bergh, 4315 Xerxes Ave, Mpls, 55410. Phone: 612-927-0894.

MTN meetings are free and open to all.

Expand your to-read list!

We had 14 people at our September meeting and recommended many books to each other. When folks had comments on a book, I tried to include those, but some books were mentioned only in passing, with no commentary. Links go directly to the author or book website where possible and to amazon.com otherwise.

Happy reading!

Books about death: they're made of dead trees!

  • Alison’s Gift, Pat Hogan. The story of the death of Alison Sanders, daughter of Crossings founder Elizabeth Knox, and how it helped spark radical changes in how Americans approach care of the dead.
  • The American Way of Death, Jessica Mitford. First published in 1963 (an updated version, The American Way of Death Revisited, was published in 1998), Mitford’s book was the first book-length exposé of the American funeral industry and related industries. Cut from the same consumer awareness cloth as Ralph Nader’s Unsafe at Any Speed, Mitford focuses on keeping costs and “frippery” down for the average funeral consumer and has little patience for grief rituals. But there’s no better peek at the excesses of funeral and disposition salesmanship. American Way of Death is funny, relentless, and depressingly relevant, more than 50 years later.
  • Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, Atul Gawande. Medical perspective on end-of-life decision-making and how western medicine unnecessarily prolongs life. Not a ton of new material for folks involved in the conscious dying movement, but he writes with authority.
  • Being with Dying, Joan Halifax. One Buddhist’s perspective on death and dying.
  • The End of Your Life Book Club, Will Schwalbe. A son and his dying mother form a book club together.
  • Find the Good, Heather Lende. A book by a newspaper obituary writer.
  • Forever Ours, Janis Amatuzio. Former Anoka County coroner writing about spirit communication from the afterlife.
  • A Good Goodbye: Funeral Planning Who Don’t Plan to Die, Gail Rubin. Planning help for death rituals. “Just as talking about sex won’t make you pregnant, talking about funerals won’t make you dead.”
  • The Grace in Dying, Kathleen Dowling Singh
  • The Grace of Ordinary Days, Kay Saunders and Bernie Saunders. A photo/poetry exploration of death
  • Healing Into Life and Death; Who Dies? An Investigation of Conscious Living and Conscious Dying; and Unattended Sorrow, Stephen Levine. Levine is a poet and prolific author; some describe reading his books as being a transcendental experience in itself.
  • How We Die, Sherwin Nuland
  • Knocking on Heaven’s Door, Katy Butler. Explores how medical technology artificially prolongs the quantity of life at the expense of quality of life.
  • Living Consciously, Dying Gracefully, Nancy Manahan & Becky Bohan. This book by MTN’s own Nancy and Becky chronicles the conscious dying process of their sister-in-law, Diane Manahan, and the family-directed death care that followed. Many present cite this book as an inspiration for their own journey into this work.
  • Living into Dying, Nancy Jewel Poer
  • Laughing in a Waterfall, Marianne Dietzl. Another book by an MTN founder, Marianne’s book about her daughter’s life and death–and her own in relation–has also inspired many of us to reconsider where we stand in relation to death.
  • No Death, No Fear: Comforting Wisdom for Life, Thich Nhat Hanh. Recommended for anyone working with a dying person who’s struggling to move beyond fear of death.
  • The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd. Contains a home vigil scene.
  • The Shrouding Woman, Loretta Ellsworth. A middle-grade book about a pre-Civil War family in the business of shrouding, preparing the community’s dead for burial.
  • Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: Lessons from the Crematory, Caitlin Doughty. A first-hand look at life behind the scenes of the American cremation trade. Doughty writes with a style that is fast-paced and witty while still being emotionally affecting. She never mocks the dead but encourages readers to confront our fear and denial around death. And be sure to check out Doughty’s always informative and hilarious “Ask a Mortician” videos (also on YouTube).
  • Unforgettable: A Son, a Mother, and the Lessons of a Lifetime, Scott Simon. Stories about his mother’s death & the conversations they had leading up to it.
  • We Know How This Ends: Living while Dying, Bruce Kramer & Kathy Wurzer. After Kramer was diagnosed with ALS, he chose to document his dying process and the insights and experiences he had along the way.
  • The Wind Blows, the Ice Breaks, Ted Bowman and Elizabeth Bourque Johnson, editors. Poems of loss and renewal by Minnesota poets.
Death Over Dinner logo
Join us for a potluck dinner and engage in a conversation that we usually keep under the table. This is not meant to be a morbid conversation, but instead a very human one where we consider what we want, both in life and during its closure. Through sharing our thoughts and feelings on this subject, we can more readily move through our fears, shed inhibitions, and forge deeper understanding and connection with our loved ones.
Tuesday, October 13 at 6:30pm
Saint Mary’s Episcopal Church
To learn more about this unique project, visit http://deathoverdinner.org/.

So that we can have starting places for our shared conversations, we have selected a few “homework” assignments for all of us to read, watch, and listen to before we gather at the table. They are very short but are quite engaging, informative, and inspiring.

READ: To One Who Will Shortly Die
Walt Whitman’s poem eloquently invites us to face our impermanence without dread.

WATCH: You only die once. Engage with Grace.
Eliza Founder, Alexandra Drane delivers a passionate talk about the need to discuss end of life decisions, and how we can approach this topic with grace and dignity. At the heart of this short video is a powerful story of losing a family member to cancer.

LISTEN: What Doesn’t Kill You
Tig was diagnosed with cancer. A week later she went on stage in Los Angeles and did a now-legendary set about her string of misfortunes. Please listen from 3:04 – 15:35.

Books about death: they're made of dead trees!

What are the best books on death and dying? Bring one of your favorites, briefly describe it, and/or read a passage (two minutes max). Or just come and hear about other people’s favorite death and dying books. You will leave with a great reading list for this winter!

At the end of the meeting maybe folks would like to swap books.

Date and time: Tuesday, September 15, 2015 at 7:00-9:00 p.m. Location: 21 Rustic Lodge Ave. East., Minneapolis 55419 Contact phone: 612-823-1910 (In case GPS directs you to the wrong side of Nicollet Av. it’s 1/2 block EAST, not west off of Nicollet Avenue)

Free and open to all!

August link roundup

TEDx “Let’s Talk About Death”
For an honest 15-minute TEDx presentation, check out the 2015 “Let’s Talk About Death” by Rochelle Martin, a Canadian crisis-care RN and death midwife.
A recent New Republic in-depth story on family-directed after-death care represents “an unprecedented effort to truly listen to Elizabeth Knox and Merilynne Rush” (home funeral educators in Maryland and Michigan respectively) according to National Home Funeral President Lee Webster.
Who Owns the Dead?
“It was a Sunday in the autumn of 1995, and Rob Sanders was driving his three kids from his house in Baltimore to the house of his ex-wife, Elizabeth Knox, in Silver Spring, Maryland. The kids rotated who got to sit in the front seat, and today was seven-year-old Alison’s turn. The boys wanted to hear the Redskins game, and when Alison leaned forward to fiddle with the radio, Sanders told her to sit back—he would find it.
“When he looked up, the light had turned red, and he braked, belatedly. Skidding into the intersection at about 14 miles an hour, he hit another car, and the passenger-side airbag deployed. The airbag—one of those early models designed to protect a full-sized adult male in a much more violent crash—struck Alison “with the force of a heavyweight boxer,” as Knox would later put it, rendering the girl unconscious and braindead in an instant.”

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