I just spent a great week in Portland, Oregon. I took the opportunity to check off a bucket list item and rode the Empire Builder train across the northern US to get there. A truly epic journey filled with snowy mountains, spring melt filled raging rivers, rusted out ‘40s sedans and trucks, prairie lands golden in the sunset, and the constant echo of “All Aboooooard”.
Portland, you see, was the home of the 39th Annual Association of Death Educators and Counsellors (ADEC) conference. It was my hope that in making the journey I would find “my people”, others who focus on thinking, learning, educating, helping, and talking about death.
The first two days were a pre-conference training on the “Essentials of Thanatology”. Thanatology is the study of death, dying, and grief. The course was a review of the core topics included in the ADEC certification exam. As the room full of 28 students and two instructors worked through the concepts, models and body of knowledge, at one point one of the students exclaimed she was a “Death Nerd” to a hearty round of applause from a welcoming room – full of death nerds.
The conference was mainly filled with academics teaching death and dying courses in universities, grief counsellors and therapists, a few funeral directors here and there, and yep other death educators. I even met three other ladies who work with people who feel their death is in the distant future. It was wonderful to find my tribe.
Here are a few ideas that you might appreciate:
- If your family wants the gold or silver fillings in your teeth (rather than the crematorium making the money) you can work with a dentist and have them removed. You just need to find a very understanding dentist.
- There are long term care facilities that will allow you to bring your cat or dog. If that is important to you, search and save now to make that option possible.
- If you’ve always thought, “I don’t want to be hooked up to machines” but you also want to be an organ donor, do know, you will need to be on life support until they can harvest those organs. So make sure you have that clear in your wishes.
- And a few linguistic suggestions:
- People don’t have a “terminal illness” they have a “life threatening illness” or are in the “terminal phase” of their illness.
- People die from suicide or end their life with suicide they do not “commit suicide”. You “commit” a crime
- And one of my favorites. Grief is like a surgical wound. If it isn’t cared for it will get infected. With time and care if will heal. However the scar will forever change us.
I was fortunate to attend sessions on loss related to trans identity, medical marijuana and palliative care, how boomers are changing the death conversation, social media’s role in support and memorialization, and the challenges and confusion about DNR (do not resuscitate) orders.
I’m thankful for the new connections I made, encouragement to get certified by the organization, and the warm reception my talk on the “Before I Die Festival” in Louisville presentation received. During a conversation with a few funeral directors that I was pestering with body disposition questions, I was honored to hear one of them say, “Kel knows her shit”. Yep funeral directors curse – and are often really funny folks. See you all again in Pittsburg, my fellow Death Nerds!
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Kel McBride, MLS, CEOLS, also known as the Lively Death Lady is a death and dying educator. She supports people in making informed decisions about their death that are in sync with their values. From health care to legacy, McBride makes the morbid intriguing and light-hearted, with amusing examples and details of lesser-known options. Her clients get their documents in order, have quality conversations about their wishes with friends and family – and also find a new focus on LIVING. She primarily works with people who are younger & healthy, people who believe their death is in the distant future. For more information or to be added to her EXPIRATIONS INSPIRATIONS blog email email@example.com or visit clearlydepart.com