YOUR MORTALITY IS AN OPPORTUNITY IN DISGUISE By Reena Lazar + Michelle Pante

Thanks to Michelle and Reena for this posting…. michelle-pante-and-reenaEarlier this year, we (Michelle and Reena) both spent time actively being with the fact that we’re going to die and we don’t know when; could be tomorrow, could be next week, or 37 years from now. It changed our lives. We each wrote a Heart Will to be read at our end-of-life rituals, and Love Letters to our respective school-aged daughters to have when we die. The impact on us continues to be profound. Reena finds herself gushing with acknowledgements and expressions of gratitude to people around her and about everyday events, not something she ever did with abundance before. As a result she finds life to be so much brighter and lighter! When writing her love letter to her daughter, Michelle asked herself, “What have I learned in my 48 years that will help this 10-year-old girl navigate her life, no matter what age she is when I die?” This process of letter writing helped Michelle uncover and crystallize one of her core truths; a truth that now calls her to account every day: “I am my own best friend and my own worst enemy. It’s my relationship with myself not with anyone else that needs attention, tenderness and care.” We launched WILLOW last spring with the radical goal of transforming the often-fragmented process of what is usually called “advanced planning” into a rich opportunity for personal growth and transformation. We want people to use that opportunity of getting clear and communicating their pragmatic and prosaic wishes about all matters ‘end of life’ — health and personal care, financial and legal matters, deathcare and funerals, legacy and remembering — to make a difference to the richness of their lives now no matter their age or state of health.  We’re all going to die, and we don’t know when. If you’ve experienced the death of someone close to you, then alongside your sorrow, or perhaps even your relief, you may have felt a force to renew or change something in your life. People in their dying days often speak of experiencing enormous growth and transformation while contemplating death. If death can provide this, so too can the conscious contemplation of your mortality. Let’s make our mortality work for us. Your mortality is an opportunity in disguise.At WILLOW, our core desire is to inspire personal reflection and action that will touch, move and inspire you, or make you stop and wonder, and perhaps even reconsider. To support you to reflect on your life and create lasting messages for those you love, we designed a weekly workshop series that will inspire you to live fully now.  LOVE LETTERS + HEART WILLS will be offered in Vancouver this WINTER (Jan 26 start) and SPRING (Mar 15 start).  In a thoughtful and dynamic group process we co-facilitate a small group process in which you will: Uncover the source of your feelings about your inevitable death.Reflect on your life and how you want to be remembered.Write a Heart Will and at least one Love Letter to capture your wisdom, wishes and special messages to be shared at or before the time of your death.  “LOVE LETTERS + HEART WILLS was ground-breaking, transformative and essentials reflections for the soul.” – Helena Cynamon With extensive training in deathcare—Michelle as a funeral director and hospice volunteer and Reena in all aspects of family and community-led deathcare —Reena and Michelle share a passion for using the conversation around death as a pathway to growth and healing for individuals, communities and the planet. With every cell in our bodies, we believe that contemplating your inevitable and unpredictable death can actually light up and enrich your life now. To dive deeper into this area of personal reflection and discovery, we invite you to:
  • Forward this post to someone you know who loves to explore who and what matters most.

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New Award for a Compassionate Community Caregiver –

I am deeeelighted to announce, the new: Frances Montgomery Compassionate Communities Caregiver Award

frankie-and-kath-in-times-square-oct-2011

(Photo of Frankie and myself in Times Square in New York City a few years ago)

Created and Sponsored by Life and Death Matters

The Award

This award celebrates the immense contributions of the social community in caring for people at end-of-life and acknowledges that care of the sick and the dying is “everyone’s responsibility”.  This award acknowledges the invaluable contribution of community members who provide care and support for people throughout the living-dying and bereavement process. It is presented to an individual who is a dedicated “compassionate community caregiver”. It is hoped that the award will be used to help the individual access education or educational resources to increase their care competencies. (This award is for someone who lives in British Columbia.)

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Advance Care Planning Day – Speak Up!

Advance Care Planning Day in Canada, and National Healthcare Decisions Day in the USA, is quickly approaching. On April 16, 2016, it’s time to speak up – and have discussions with friends and family members about your wishes for end-of-life.

Life and Death Matters created Care Planning Cookies, edible cookies with a message inside, each one intended to stimulate conversations about living well and dying well. One hospital in Ontario is ensuring that each patient receives a cookie on their meal tray, and that family and staff are given cookies with their food and beverages in the cafeteria, leading up to April 16th.

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Incorporating Love In Professional Practice

Written by Kath Murray and Misha Butot. This writing was inspired by Misha’s original research and was lovingly edited by Coby Tschanz, Allyson Wightman and Joanne Thomson

Misha Butot was a counselor with 14 years of professional experience when she became curious about how love was a factor or perhaps the essence of quality physical and emotional care. She explored the ways that self-reflective and social justice oriented care providers thought and practiced “love” in their work with those they served by speaking with both clients and colleagues. She traveled through western Canada interviewing a small but diverse group of care providers of different ages, genders, sites of practice, and cultural and spiritual backgrounds. In spite of this diversity, many of their perspectives on the key role of love in their work were remarkably similar.

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Advocating for the Family of Persons with Dementia

This piece was written by our friend and colleague, Andrea Leatherdale – RN, BScN, Practical Nursing Program Coordinator at Centennial College.

Depending on a long-term care agency’s policies, when a person with dementia enters the end-stage of life, management/administration may seek to transfer care to an alternate level of care (palliative care unit) away from the familiar long-term care setting.  Families are often caught unaware of this practice and often desire their loved one to remain in the known setting until death.

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Music Therapy in Hospice and Palliative Care | Your Personal Soundtrack

Guest blog post by Jennifer Buchanan of JB Music Therapy – a Canadian company based in Calgary, Alberta. “Our mission at JB Music Therapy is to transform lives through excellence in clinical practice and education by bringing music into the foreground. JBMT has been providing music therapy services since 1991. We offer personalized programs for individuals coping with brain injury, mental health issues, learning challenges, dementia, palliative care, addictions, long-term care, autism, as well as youth at risk.”

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Green Burials

Guest blog post by Susan Benesch – owner, and licensed funeral director, of Earth’s Option Cremation & Burial Services in Victoria, BC. Earth’s Option offers celebrations of life, funeral services, burial services, cremation services and specialize in green burials. They also provide a list of grief support resources and a pre-planning checklist on their website.

Green Burial has become an option available to families looking to minimize their environmental footprint when a loved one passes away. Being green and environmentally conscience has become a way of life.

What are considered alternative funeral rights and rituals?

In the past we saw traditional funerals, whereby every person was embalmed, dressed, placed in a casket and put on public display for viewing. The funeral ceremony would follow the next day with a long procession out to the cemetery. The casket would then be buried in the grave in a concrete vault and the top of the grave would have a granite headstone.

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Music Therapy in Hospice and Palliative Care | Gwen’s Story

Guest blog post by Jennifer Buchanan of JB Music Therapy – a Canadian company based in Calgary, Alberta. “Our mission at JB Music Therapy is to transform lives through excellence in clinical practice and education by bringing music into the foreground. JBMT has been providing music therapy services since 1991. We offer personalized programs for individuals coping with brain injury, mental health issues, learning challenges, dementia, palliative care, addictions, long-term care, autism, as well as youth at risk.”

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Press Release – Death, Dying, and Grief: Avenues for Healthy Communication Help Children and Adults

BOOTHBAY HARBOR, Maine, June 29, 2015 /PRNewswire/ — Blazing new paths in the field of thanatology, Lynne Tobin, Andrea Warnick, and Katherine Murray spearhead distinctive programs for people to think, learn, and communicate about death, dying, and bereavement.

Lynne Tobin, a licensed professional counselor (LPC), works extensively with individuals and families during end of life journeys.

Tobin also facilitates group discussions on subjects as diverse as writing advanced directives, near death experiences, and views on life after death. “Death Cafe” discussions are held in local settings—a small restaurant, tearoom, or coffee shop—because she noticed “Participants feel more comfortable asking questions and sharing ideas in a casual environment.”

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Reflecting on Death: First Nations People

This piece was written by my young friend, Lindsay Borrows. The shortened version is found in Integrating a Palliative Approach: Essentials for Personal Support Workers. – Kath

The Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation is located on the eastern shore of the Saugeen (Bruce) Peninsula on Georgian Bay. We have over 2,000 band members, and about 700 live on reserve. These numbers represent our family, and we are all connected through systems of caregiving. These structures extend beyond the nuclear family and include our clan relations, adoptions and extended relatives. Part of having a large family means grief continually affects the entire community as people’s lives as members finish their journey in this life.

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