Notes from the Regional Gathering

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Regional gathering attendees. Photo by Linda Bergh

On Saturday, October 6, 2018, the MTN Twin Cities hosted our third regional gathering. The event brought together people from throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin to discuss what’s going on in our communities around conscious dying, family-directed after-death care, and green burial. The meeting was held at the home of Linda Bergh. Nineteen people attended.

In the morning, each group checked into to tell us all about what they’ve been up to. Here are some general notes from those reports, although no notes can ever capture the true richness of experience represented in that room.

Southeast Minnesota Threshold Network (Rochester area; Deah reporting)

  • Feeling of dwindling. Would like thoughts on how to grow the network and do work in the community.
  • Series of meetings to get to know each other by talking about what each person wants for their own death.
  • Decorated a “coffin” and had each person lie in it. Others talked about what they would miss about the “dead” person
  • Trainings in body-washing and supporting grieving families
  • Sunday, November 4: death open mic in Rochester
  • Elephant in the Room is a local collaboration of hospice, library, medical society, SE MTN, & many others who have worked together for several years. They’re planning a month of death-related events in November called Community Reflections of Living & Dying. Kickoff on Thursday, November 1.
  • Question: how can groups support each other?
  • Facebook: SE Minnesota Threshold Network, Elephant In the Room Network – end of life planning

 

Threshold Care Circle (Viroqua, WI; Liz reporting)

  • Groups size has ebbed and flowed. In a “small” phase right now.
  • No green cemetery in the area; in Vernon county, people can bury on their own land.
  • People are now contacting them for help with both personal and policy questions. Helping get laws changed/helping people understand the law in their area
  • Group has diversified, which has allowed them to offer different kinds of workshops
  • It may seem like not much is happening, but you never know what the impact has been and how far the ripples have gone out
  • Question: when we have materials, how do we most effectively get them where they need to be?
  • Facebook: Threshold Care Circle

 

Tabooyah (Menomonie, WI; Terri reporting)

  • Small core group
  • See themselves as a resource group
  • Name comes from “taboo” + “booyah” (how cool is that?)
  • Rochelle Martin TED Talk, “Let’s Talk About Death
  • Had a table at local farmer’s market to Tell your Story on end of life
  • Investigated and learned that  residents of their county have a choice to be buried on homestead property. Easements may be required if the land is subsequently sold.
  • A lot of personal growth and commitment to the work
  • This work happens all the time. People die whenever they do; they don’t wait for a convenient time
  • Want to do more work in their community. Want to get ideas and energy around what they’re doing.
  • Question: how can groups offer each other energy and support?
  • Email address: tabooyahwi@gmail.com

 

Duluth, MN (Dana reporting)

  • Dana is new to this and very excited.

 

Mankato, MN (Mary Ann reporting)

  • Deva Nation. Nonprofit linked to an international movement of compassionate communities. A public health movement.
  • US is the only country with a for-profit healthcare system, which is why we don’t have any compassionate communities for end-of-life.
  • Public Health Palliative Care International
  • Want to create a compassionate town council. Each sector comes forward with policies to create a town charter that will be reviewed each year.
  • One Bright Star: nonprofit for families who have had a child die.
  • The vision: when anyone in the community is dying, caring, or grieving, we will all know what to do.
  • Question: how do we get Mary Ann some more people?!?
  • Birth, Breath, and Death, Amy Wright Glenn

 

 

Mind-Body Solutions (Minnetonka; Catherine reporting)

 

MTN Twin Cities (Linda, Karen, and others reporting)

  • Stay With Me Awhile, Mary Johnson and Barbara Means Frasier. New thirty-minute version on December 11 at Spirit of St. Stephen’s Catholic Community
  • Opening up the leadership team, restructuring the leadership team, reconsidering the mission
  • Question: how does leadership move into this new time with authenticity? How to do organization differently?
  • Question: how to bring younger people into this conversation?
  • Question: how to balance people who do this as a side passion with people who are doing it as a job and need to make money from it?
  • Started a mentoring framework: one person who’s been doing this for a while partners with one new person for each meeting

 

General Thoughts

After lunch, attendees held a planning discussion regarding the National Home Funeral Alliance 2019 national conference, which will be held in Chaska, Minnesota from October 4-6, 2019. Anyone who’s interested in helping plan and/or volunteer during this event is asked to contact Mary Ann Boe at maryann @ devanation . com

We are grateful to everyone who made the trek to this gathering, and to Linda for hosting. Let’s keep the ideas and enthusiasm flowing between us.

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Regional gathering attendees. Photo by Ellen Hufschmidt
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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.
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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.”

TEDx Video on VSED: “Not Here By Choice”

Alan Shacter made several unusual end of life decisions and is a model of dying more consciously. He asked his wife to share his story and his message. In this 17-minute TEDx video, Phyllis Shacter talks compellingly about her husband’s decision to voluntarily stop eating and drinking (VSED) to avoid living in the late stages of Alzheimer’s.

Phyllis Shacter