InhaleExhale: Honoring Life + Navigating the Journey of Death

October 6, 2019
InhaleExhale: Honoring Life + Navigating the Journey of Death

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Sliding Scale $150 - FREE

InhaleExhale--Window Seat Media's newest Community Stories Project-- is an exploration of our stories about death and dying. What are our “blueprints” for dying? Where do these stories come from and how do they inform the care we seek and receive? What stories complicate our “master narratives,” and what can we learn from those stories? Our goal is to share powerful stories and ideas, illuminate systemic problems, and ask what is possible for end-of-life care in the South Sound community.

Join us for our project launch! 

Participate in interactive workshops with speakers from around the state who will share their knowledge and experience with alternative, progressive death care - including the role of death doulas, how to have a home funerals, and green burial and emerging alternatives.

Learn about new progressive legislation – human composting and alkaline hydrolysis – providing more environmentally friendly options for our bodies after death

Reflect on your own journey and honor loved ones through playback theater, writing workshops, and a pop-up exhibit.

Access resources so you can better plan for end-of-life.

This is a unique opportunity. It is for anyone who wants to feel more empowered about end-of-life care – for themselves and the people they love.

Event Schedule

8:30AM | Doors Open
Coffee, tea, connect with friends, old and new

9:00AM | Welcome and Opening with Brian Flowers + Holly Pruett
Settle in and be seated by 9:00!

10:20AM | Break

10:40AM | Session 1: Understanding the Story Landscape
Track 1: A Rivers Journey to the Sea: How ready were we for serious illness and end-of-life? How ready are you? | Hugh O'Neill
Track 2: Afterworlding | Miranda Mellis
Track 3: Nourishing Wildflowers | Jessica Caldwell

12:00PM | Lunch
Eat lunch in main house or bring food to Coach House for playback theater performance with the Heartsparkle Players from 12:15-1:15PM. Lunch provided by Nineveh.

1:30PM | Session 2: Living and Dying Fully  
Track 1: Story Salon | Elaine Vradenburgh with conversation partners Debe Edden, Elizabeth Lord, and Eliana Stockwell-Ferber
Track 2: What is a Death Doula? | Lashanna Williams
Track 3: Rituals of Bereavement and Remembrance: Telling a Life's Story, Connecting to a Bigger Story | Holly Pruett

2:50PM | Break 

3:10PM | Session 3: Honoring Our Loved Ones and Ourselves After Death   
Track 1:  Reimagining What is Possible: The Art and Practice of Home Funerals and Green Burials | Lucinda Herring and Karen Lohmann
Track 2:  Green Burial and Emerging Alternatives | Brian Flowers and Nora Menkin
Track 3: Thinking with Death and Dying, Together: Written Reflection on InhaleExhale | Sophia McLain and Lucien Spect

4:30PM | Break

4:45PM | Closing Ritual with Holly Pruett

Session Leaders + Contributors

Jessica Caldwell, Northwest Home Funerals & Green Burial Education
Debe Edden, Heartsparkle Players
Brian Flowers, Moles Farewell Tributes & Greenacres Memorial Park
Lucinda Herring, Threshold Consulting & Ministry
Karen Lohmann, Blessing the Journey
Elizabeth Lord, StoryOly
Sophia McLain, writer
Miranda Mellis, Evergeen State College
Nora Menkin, People's Memorial Coop
Hugh O’Neill, Grieving spouse and book shepherd
Holly Pruett, Life Cycle Celebrant
Lucien Spect, writer and dancer
Eliana Stockwell-Ferber, No One Dies Alone
Elaine Vradenburgh, Window Seat Media
Angie Ward, National Home Funeral Alliance
Lashanna Williams, A Sacred Passing

Session Descriptions

Miranda Mellis, Evergreen State College,

Miranda Mellis will read from her novella The Spokes which takes place in an afterworld and facilitate a writing exercise and discussion about “worlding” after lives.

About Miranda: Miranda Mellis is the author of numerous books of fiction and nonfiction including The Revisionist and Demystifications. She was a founding editor at The Encyclopedia Project. Her various writings have appeared in a range of publications including Harper’s, The Believer, Bomb, Fence, the NY Times, Conjunctions, and elsewhere. She teaches at The Evergreen State College.

A River's Journey to the Sea: How ready were we for serious illness and end-of-life challenges? How ready are you?
Hugh O'Neill, grieving spouse and book shepherd

In this interactive  workshop, Hugh will “dish the dirt” about: his and Annie’s biggest  challenges, interpersonal struggles, and most important sources of practice  and support. Then participants will be invited to work in pairs or small  groups to share their thoughts with each other and assess their readiness for  taking care of a loved one or facing end-of-life challenges.  We will debrief as a whole group and  formulate our take-away actions or conclusions.

About Hugh: Hugh married well and was the primary caretaker for his late wife, the amazing AnnieMcManus, during her two year cancer journey (2014-2016).  Annie worked in Olympia WA as a counselor in private practice with a focus on grief and mourning, as a home funeral guide, was a hospice volunteer and dear friend to many. Hugh develops partnerships to prevent pollution at the WA Department of Ecology.  He is a member of the Community forInterfaith Celebration (CIC) in Olympia, Indralaya retreat center and nature sanctuary on Orcas Island, and a men’s group in Olympia. Hugh is working to publish a book of Annie’s writings during her cancer journey.

Green Burial and Emerging Alternatives
Brian Flowers,
Moles Farewell Tributes and Nora Menkin, Peoples Memorial Coop

Nora and Brian will lead an engaging discussion about green burial, its applications for ecological restoration and conservation and its unique opportunities for crafting meaningful ritual. They will also explore Natural Organic Reduction of Remains(Recompose) and Alkaline Hydrolysis, two new forms of disposition that have emerged out of the green burial movement.

About Brian and Nora: Once upon a time Brian Flowers graduated from Western Washington University with a degree entitled “Orality & Mythology,” which is really just an academic way of saying “storytelling.” He has worked (more moonlighting these days) as performance storyteller for over 20 years. This set him on a long and winding path that eventually led to a career in the Green Burial Movement. He would be glad to tell you the story of that journey. Today Brian is the managing funeral director for Moles Farewell Tributes in Bellingham, WA and the Green Burial Coordinator for Greenacres Memorial Park, where he designed and developed The Meadow Natural Burial Ground. He has also served as The Board President for The Green Burial Council. Brian is a passionate advocate for family centered death care and the crafting of unique, relevant, contemporary rituals that make meaning of life’s profound experiences. Afterall, ritual can be the reenactment of story.

Nora Menkin was working as a stage manager in Seattle when The Co-op Funeral Home of People's Memorial was forming in 2007. She jumped at the chance to be involved with such a wonderful organization. She began as an intern and worked her way up to being named the Managing Funeral Director in 2013, and in 2018 Executive Director of People's Memorial Association and The Co-op Funeral Home. With a background in home funerals, Jewish traditions, and a passion for natural burial and modern funeral practices, Nora strives to make sure every family can make their arrangements according to their needs and wishes. Nora lives in Burien with her husband Nick, son Sam, and dogs Alice and Mabel.

Nourishing Wildflowers
Jessica Caldwell

Nourishing Wildflowers, led by family directed home-funeral educator and advocate for environmentally sustainable end-of-life practices Jessica Caldwell, will take you on a journey that started with personal loss and led to a unique opportunity that led her to a sales role within a conventional funeral home and cemetery. Experiencing first hand the current model of standard industry practices gave Jessica an insight to the unexpected challenges and limitations that individuals and families encounter when faced with the passing of a loved one. The session will be rich with story-telling, sprinkled with humor and offer thought provoking alternatives that honor a new paradigm in how we embrace death as a culture.Jessica Caldwell will be joined by the nonprofit organization: End Of Life Washington -Your life. Your death. Your choice. Volunteers Sandra Pedersen and Donna Doyle will lead a 20 minute final presentation on the Death with Dignity law - what it is, how it works and common misconceptions surrounding the law.

About Jessica: As a Home Funeral Guide, Jessica Caldwell is an educator and advocate for end-of-life planning, inspired by a rapidly growing movement in family-directed home funerals and environmentally sustainable end-of-life care. She has a unique professional history, having worked for a large memorial group in a conventional funeral home and cemetery.Jessica served as Board Treasurer for the National Home Funeral Alliance in 2016 and completed Hospice training to better understand the complexities of those dealing with a terminal illness. She is a certified yoga and meditation instructor and volunteers as a mindfulness facilitator at a local middle school in Olympia Washington, where she calls home.

Rituals of Bereavement & Remembrance: Telling A Life's Story, Connecting to a Bigger Story
Holly Pruett,
Life-Cycle Celebrant & Home Funeral Guide

With inspiring stories of creative individual and community ceremonies, participants will consider the full range of rituals supporting bereavement and remembrance, from a “living memorial” before death, to a vigil or home funeral at the time of death, to a funeral or memorial soon after, or a memorial sometime – even years – later. Participants will reflect on and share what kind of bereavement and remembrance rituals hold meaning for them.

About Holly: A  Life-Cycle Celebrant and Home Funeral Guide and a well-known conversation leader and consultant, Holly founded PDX Death Café in 2013; organized the  500-person daylong event Death:OK in Portland in 2015; created the Death Talk  Project in 2016; and has just launched Oregon Funeral Resources &  Education, a free public information site co-developed with Lee Webster and  other home funeral advocates. She is in her sixth year of studies with  Stephen Jenkinson's Orphan Wisdom School and is certified in Thanatology by  the Association for Death Education & Counseling.

Reimagining What is Possible: The Art and Practice of Home Funerals and Green Burials
Lucinda Herring,, and Karen Lohmann, Blessing the Journey

Lucinda and Karen will share personal, humorous and moving stories, as well as practical “hands-on” experience creating a home funeral vigil and caring for a loved one’s body after death. You will receive a greater ‘felt sense’ and understanding of what it means to care for the dead, rather than call strangers from a funeral home to carry out that sacred task.We will work practically and creatively with shrouds and with bringing nature and beauty and ritual to death’s threshold. This is “reimagining what is possible” - honoring our beloved dead, while serving our sacred connection to the earth,  to each other, and to death itself.  

About Lucinda: Lucinda Herring has worked at the cutting edge of the green funeral movement for more than twenty years, beginning with others in the 1990s to quietly care for loved ones after death. Today she is one of the leading voices for more healing and ecological ways to care for our dead. Her book Reimagining Death: Stories and PracticalWisdom for Home Funerals and Green Burials was published this year by North Atlantic Books, and is Lucinda’s own artistic and spiritual response to the growing need for us all to reimagine what is possible, and to make choices that care for each other and the earth when we die. Lucinda is a home funeral/green burial consultant and guide, an interfaith minister, and a licensed funeral director in the state of Washington. She is also a storyteller and festival maker, committed to bringing art, beauty, ritual and celebration to all of life's thresholds.  

About Karen: Karen Lohmann (she/her) wears many hats. She is: a grandmother, a gardener of soil and soul; a Celebrant/Ritual facilitator and lay-ordained minister (Upaya Zen Center 2011); a Sufi mureed, a Home Funeral Guide with "Blessing the Journey" (begun with Annie McMannus in 2010-Trained with Char Barrett of "A Sacred Moment"); a Flower Essence Practitioner (Flower Essence Society  2004), Healing Touch Level 3, a 2017 graduate of "Awakening to Wholeness" -250 hour- "practicing presence" with Brent Swift, LAcp; and Jessica Rose, DC. Kirsten Eventyr, LMHC; Karen is a Board Certified staff chaplain going into her 12th year at Providence St. Peter Hospital. Karen is a member of "Community for Interfaith Celebration".

Story Salon
Elaine Vradenburgh,
Window Seat Media, with conversation partners Debe Edden, Elizabeth Lord, and Eliana Stockwell-Ferber

“The soul is contained in the human voice,” says writer Jorges Luis Borges.

Over the past few months, Window Seat Media staff and volunteers have been recording the voices of our friends, neighbors, and family members as they reflect on their thoughts and experiences with ​death and dying. Join WSM Curator, Elaine Vradenburgh, for an hour of listening and facilitated discussion with conversation partners Eliana Stockwell-Ferber, No One Dies Alone Program Coordinator; Elizabeth Lord, local storyteller and founder of StoryOly; and Debe Edden, Artistic and Managing Director of the Heartsparkle Players and WSM Board member. We’ll share 4 or 5 stories from this new series, reflect on the ideas and themes that emerge - including death with dignity, living wakes, end-of-life rituals, the role of a "witness," threshold singing - and consider the power and purpose of story in our lives, as we live and as we die.

About Elaine: Elaine is a multi-media storyteller, community engagement strategist, and educator. She is the founder of Window Seat Media and an adjunct faculty in theMPA program at Evergreen State College. Elaine received a Master's in Interdisciplinary Studies: Journalism, Anthropology, and Folklore from the University of Oregon in 2008 and a BA in Cultural and Community Studies from Evergreen State College in 2001.

Thinking with Death and Dying, Together: Written Reflection on InhaleExhale
Sophia McLain and Lucien Spect

This is a writing workshop designed to make space for reflection on the ideas, inspirations, and experiences shared during this event. We will write together using guided questions and texts, share our writing, and think about where we go from here.

About Sophia and Lucien: Sophia holds a BA in literary arts from The Evergreen State College. She works with youth and children in a variety of settings and co-organizes sic writing and performance workshops. Lucien is a writer and dancer. He is ¼ of the writing and theory collective Sundae Theory and graduated from The Evergreen StateCollege with a BA in literary arts in 2018.

What is a Death Doula?
Lashanna Williams,
A Sacred Passing

Join us in community for a conversation exploring the role of  aDeath Doula. Ask questions, get answers to questions you didn’t know you hadand learn how to access death doulas in your community.

About Lashanna: I am a helper. As the rest of my work, my doula work is rooted in touch.At the end-of-life, touch can be purely investigative. My touch is a nurturing and loving one. A touch, that is whole, sturdy, strong and unwavering, and isn't limited to physical. All that this touch embodies is carried throughout my work. It is carried folding laundry, brushing hair, sanitizing bathrooms, cooking dinner or transcribing letters. It is carried in planning a celebration of life, completing advance care paperwork. dressing the shroud, and sharing a hug. It is carried in the way I hold the people and families I am given the honor to work with. I am a Death Doula.

Art, Theater, and Other Goodness

Heartsparkle Players,
a playback theater performance during lunch

The Heartsparkle Players, an Olympia based Playback Theatre ensemble, have been supporting community connection and hope using theatre since 1991. Playback is a form of improvisational theatre where audience members tell moments from their lives and the actors and musician create artistic renderings using dialogue, movement and sound. Each performance invites the audience and the players to listen deeply to highlight our shared and unique human experiences. Please bring your stories and open heart.

Participatory Exhibit

What are our blueprints for dying?
Where do they come from and how do they inform the care we seek and receive?
What stories complicate our “master narratives” and what can we learn from those stories?

We are excited to explore our project’s essential questions through a participatory exhibit of material objects that will be on display throughout the day. We invited our collaborators - session leaders, volunteers, and other contributors - to submit an object that responds in some way to our project’s essential questions. Here are our stories. What objects tell your story?

Stages: Infernae: Artwork by Sylvia Chowdhury

Sylvia is a bilingual poet and visual artist. She studies power in systems, communities and the individual as well as the transformational and mobilizing qualities of human discourse. She is working on her first collection of poems and exploring ceramics in her free time.

At the center of her artistic and sociological practice, Sylvia is interested in what people, animals, and materials do when they are liberated to act and move freely. Inspired by patterns found in natural phenomena, Stages: Infernae depicts the meeting of faceless ghosts, investigates the possible symbolic and metaphysical landscape of death, the battle, and convergence between light and darkness.

Resource Library & Book Sales

Visit the library during the break and at lunch to pick up a wealth of free resources!

Also for sale:

Reimagining Death: Stories and Practical Wisdom for Home Funerals and Green Burial by Lucinda Herring. $24 - Cash or check accepted.

Pen and Paintbrush: The Entire Trip by Robert Lovett is a poetic map and artistic checklist for other couples or individuals who find themselves traversing any similarly perilous journey.  It is a compassionate chaperon for caregivers. Need a map? Need a flashlight? That is what Fischer and Lovitt offer you - an unusual collaboration of poetry and art, an advice-free and happy-face-free tool chest. $16 - Cash or check accepted.

Shrouding Demonstration

Shrouding is an old practice of wrapping the dead in fabrics. The reason people shroud can be for religion, for others it could be a comfort and still for others, it could be for the environment. A shroud can cover all or some of the body during the wake, during transport. Shrouding a person can be a most intimate grief processor. It is a chance to tenderly care for the dead. Using specific fabric, colors or family patterns to shroud the dead carries meaning for all involved. Many families use a burial shroud when conducting a funeral at home, green burial, natural organic reduction, cremation and aquamation. Join us for a simple hands on shrouding activity and help increase the knowledge in community death care. Facilitated by A Sacred Passing.