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Talking about Living and Dying

Seven months ago, a few like-minded islanders sat around a picnic table on a sunny afternoon and discussed the possibility of having a “death fest” on Vashon.  That small group grew into a determined, passionate team who transformed the vision into reality.  That reality, now called a Vashon Conversation for the Living about Dying, is scheduled for March 2 – 5.  It is a feast of wonderful offerings with one intent in mind:  to raise consciousness about our own mortality and to connect to life and death and each other, reducing the silence, fear and isolation that too often surround the topic of death and mortality.  

Sandwiched between an opening event with keynote speaker Michael Hebb, founder of ”Let’ Have Dinner and Talk about Death”, on March 2 at Vashon High Theater and a closing Celebration of Life and Remembrance in the Open Space meadow on Sunday, March 5, there are a variety of offerings.  Consider participating in whichever ones have interest.  The team is hopeful that many islanders will join them.
Some possibilities:

Friday, March 3, Gallery Cruise  6:00 – 9:00 p.m.  Galleries and other venues will feature art created especially for this weekend, focused on life, love, loss, death and grief.  The creativity, thought and heart invested in this wonderful offering is a gift to all.  Spend time engaged with the artists and one another, exploring what the art evokes in you. Don’t miss the Before I Die Walls interspersed between art at Two Wall Gallery. Pick up a piece of chalk and publicly share your hopes and dreams -- a wonderful form of interactive art that children and adults can participate in.  Thanks to Vashon Rotary Club for financial support and elbow grease!
Luminaries will guide you to the Sugar Shack where you’ll hear Death Comes Calling and Other Stories  . . .  Cozy up to stories from diverse traditions that guide us to deep wisdom and on to pathways of resiliency and hope. Stories will be woven together with harp strings.  Story tellers Jane Valencia and Allison Cox will charm you with myth, folklore, beautiful music that touch the heart and celebrate life.
Then come to the Vashon Senior Center to hear songs requested by islanders who’ve told us what music would make them laugh, cry and sing as they reach the end of their lives.  Three Island music groups will play and sing our collective longings for the whole community to enjoy.  Musicians and vocalists: Loren Sinner, Kat Eggleston and Cherrywood Station

Saturday, March 4 at the Land Trust Building:
10:00 A.M. – Noon, It’s All Ceremony: A Workshop about End of Life Ritual  This session will assist you in planning and putting into writing your wishes for your end of life ceremony. What makes for a meaningful powerful ceremony that not only pays tribute to the dead, but also enlivens the living? Components of ritual such as story, silence, symbols and music will be explored.  Resources will be shared for you to take home. Facilitators are Rev. Carla Pryne and Erin Durrett, both of whom have had extensive experience creating meaningful end of life celebrations and rituals.

12:30  – 2:30 P.M., Meaningful Funeral and Burial Options  
Supporting families facing the death of a loved one is sacred work and can be made even more so when engaging family in the process.   Learn about meaningful funeral options:  traditional burials, home funeral, green burials, modified green burials, living memorial or even a simple scattering ceremony.  Panel: Char Barrett, founder, Sacred Moment Funeral Services; Jodie Buller, Cemetery Manager, White Eagle Memorial Preserve; Lisa Ryan Devereau, Licensed Funeral Director, Island Funeral Service; Len Burton-Hardin, Licensed Funeral Director, Howden-Kennedy Funeral Home.  Moderator:  Susan McCabe, Voice of Vashon Station Manager
3:00 – 4:45 P.M. End of Life Care – Quality vs. Quantity
  Consider the challenging ethical decisions faced by patients, families and the health care team at the end-of-life.  Can we move beyond medicine’s fixation on conquering death to a vision of end-of-life care focused on the quality of the patient’s experience?  What ethical questions and issues might arise as we make end-of-life decisions for ourselves and our loved ones?  Presenters:  Mark Fredericksen, ND and Ryan Pferdehirt, Bioethicist, with facilitator Collin Hennessey, Pharm.D., MPA
3:00 – 4:30 P.M. Tour of Vashon Cemetery    
Take a stroll around Vashon’s beautiful cemetery and hear fascinating stories about residents who are resting here.  Have you always wondered where the oldest gravesite is?  Stories about how families remember their loved ones?  Don’t miss this chance to hear Lisa  Devereau tell about one of the most interesting properties on the Island.  Meet at Vashon Cemetery Parking Lot
At the end of the day, from 6:00 – 8:30 P.M., Let’s Have Dinner and Talk about Death.  Join friends and neighbors at tables of six or seven at Camp Burton Lodge to toast loved ones and engage in rich conversation over a simple, delicious meal. Don’t wait until you are in crises to talk about what matters most to you in your living and dying. Dinner tickets are $20.00 per person and can be purchased at the Vashon Senior Center.

Sunday, March 5 at the Land Trust Building:
10:00 A.M. – Noon, Spiritual Perspective on Dying for Those Not Part of a Faith Community       
In dying, each of us approaches the edge of our knowing and enters into mystery.  Explore how our path to dying may be similar to and different from our experience of living.   The conversation will consider how mystery and spiritual processes beyond our comprehension might help and how we can hold space for them.    Retired Hospice Chaplain Tom Craighead will facilitate and Susan Pitiger, RN will moderate the session.  

Noon – 2:00 P.M. End-of-Life Resources on Vashon   
Find out about the rich resources available to patients and families as their care needs increase at the end of life.  Hear stories of how our fellow islanders have been able to die as they wished, living their last days as fully as possible.  Presenters:  Kathy Shafel, RN Providence Hospice of Seattle; Holly Shepherd, MBA, Vashon Community Care;  Christine Jovanovich, Island Caregiving Network;  Kay Longhi, End-of-Life WA   Facilitator:  Carol Spangler

It’s a feast – join us!  . For information: