Sarah Treanor has a passion for the meaning behind art. Through her personal work and facilitating others, she encourages the telling of vulnerable stories as ways to heal and connect. Since losing both parents and her fiance, Sarah has evolved her concepts of grief and life through creativity.
For Sarah, creating is about capturing moments of our realities in a way that honors us both as individuals and as part of the whole framework of humanity… “Putting your experiences – good or bad – into something creative gives them new meaning, a voice that has the potential to connect to someone else who has felt the same thing. That’s the best moment for me, when something I create taps into someone else’s private story and, for a moment, they see themselves within it.”
Sensei Koshin Paley Ellison, MFA, LMSW, DMIN, cofounded the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care, the first Zen-based organization to offer fully accredited ACPE clinical chaplaincy training in America, which delivers contemplative approaches to care through education, direct service, and meditation practice.
Paley Ellison is the academic advisor for the Buddhist students in the Master in Pastoral Care and Counseling program at NYZCCC’s education partner, New York Theological Seminary. He is currently on the faculty of the University of Arizona Medical School’s Center for Integrative Medicine’s Integrative Medicine Fellowship, and he is a visiting professor at the McGovern Center for Humanities and Ethics, of the University of Texas Health Science Center of Houston Medical School. Paley Ellison’s public programs have introduced thousands to the practices of mindful and compassionate care of the living and dying. More than 30,000 people listen to his podcasts each year. Koshin is a popular keynote speaker for national conferences, including the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, Association of Clinical Pastoral Education, Integrative Healthcare Symposium, and the Palliative Care Symposium.
Iris Apfel Maintaining an unexpected career as an accidental icon at age 96, Iris Apfel is a self-proclaimed “geriatric starlet” who lives gracefully in the present. Her early years running an interior design company with her husband Carl led to overnight fame at age 84 when the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY premiered an exhibition about her style called, “Rara Avis.” At age 90, Apfel became a visiting Professor at the University of Texas in Austin. In 2014, she starred in “Iris”, a documentary about her life and philosophy by legendary film maker, Albert Maysles. Living life to the fullest despite losing her husband of 67 years in 2015, Apfel inspires with stylish presence, candid appeal and unsugared truth.
At age 77, I have a mind of a 15 year-old. School friends would confirm that, but I hesitate to try getting in touch because they may be dead. I’ve always been conscious of death, even before school. It may have been the war (WW Two, not One, okay!): blackout curtains, pitch-black, deserted streets, the mournful wail of the air raid warning, the air of foreboding people carried with them at all times along with their gas masks. Houses bombed, rubble in the streets, all that. I found the ending of the day was a sad thing for years and years.
My life has always been about why, why? Never how? When it comes to how, I am an amateur, bungling through; being lucky rather than pragmatic. And I have been lucky; born with gifts that I love to observe playing out. I know I do not own them, and I wonder, if I return, whether they’ll be given again. I hope so. But that’s something else.
Dr. Shoshana Ungerleider
Dr. Shoshana Ungerleider is an internist practicing hospital medicine at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco. She received her medical degree from Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, OR and completed residency at California Pacific Medical Center where she is now on the teaching faculty and serves on the Foundation Board of Trustees. In her spare time, Shoshana enjoys traveling, exercising and eating great food. She lives with her husband in San Francisco.
Bill Palmer has deep coaching, consulting and training experience in cross-cultural settings. He is designated as a Professional Certified Coach by the International Coach Federation and has worked for a diverse set of Fortune 500 companies and the United States military.
Bill is the founder and facilitator of Death Cafe Oakland.
Claudia Biçen is a self-taught British-American artist living in San Francisco. Her work has been selected for a number of exhibitions including the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition at the Smithsonian in Washington DC, the Royal Society of Portrait Painters at the Mall Galleries in London and the Pastel Society of America at the National Arts Club in New York where she was awarded the Herman Margulies Award for Excellence.
Fascinated by the human condition, Claudia has worked with communities across the world in both mental health and therapeutic art settings. In 2013, she was invited to Project 387’s artist residency where she produced a contemplative art piece in the forest exploring the relationship between transience and wellbeing. Claudia holds a BA in Philosophy & Psychology from the University of Oxford and an MSc in Social Anthropology from University College London.
William Buhlman’s forty years of extensive personal out-of-body explorations give him a unique and thought provoking perspective of death and dying. His first book, Adventures beyond the Body chronicles his personal journey of self-discovery through out-of-body travel, and provides the reader with techniques that can be used for their own exploration. In addition, William has developed an extensive series of audio and video programs designed to expand awareness and assist in consciousness expansion. William has appeared on numerous worldwide television and radio shows.
Phyllis Shacter is an advocate in end-of-life choices, especially the little-known option of Voluntarily Stopping Eating and Drinking (VSED) for people with degenerative disease. She is the author of Choosing to Die, a memoir and thorough guidebook about her husband’s gentle, elective death from VSED after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Her website is the authoritative site on VSED, and features her TEDx Talk, “Not Here By Choice.” Phyllis frequently speaks at conferences, including the Seattle University-sponsored first National Conference on VSED which she helped organize.
Jon is the founder of Death Cafe. He is 43 year old, married with two children and lives in Hackney, East London. Jon is also a student at Jamyang Buddhist Centre. Jon works on projects about death. These include:
- Death Cafe, offering group directed conversation about death over tea and cake.
- Funeral Advisor with the Natural Death Centre, a ‘Trip Advisor’ for the funeral industry.
- Find Me Help with Dying Matters, UK’s most comprehensive directory of services for dying people, their families, carers and friends.
Jack Curry is a multi-disiplinary designer living in New York City. Working mainly in brand and typeface design, his work often lies at the intersection of observation, culture, and the signified. And while he loves New York City, he’s not quite sure if he wants to die there.
Rev. Olivia Bareham
Rev. Olivia Bareham is a certified Death Midwife, Home Funeral Guide, and Celebrant. She holds degrees in Education and Natural Theology and Sacred Healing. Olivia is the founder of Sacred Crossings—The Institute for Conscious Dying and Home Funerals in Los Angeles. For over 12 years, Olivia has guided families in the art of conscious dying and home-based after death care. She recently launched the nation’s first alternative funeral home, owned and operated by death midwives, offering natural, sacred alternatives to traditional funeral home practices. Olivia’s certificate training program, ‘The Art of Death Midwifery’, is now offered to students worldwide.
Ellen works with individuals and groups drawing on both mind-body tools and yoga therapy. She is a Senior Faculty member at the Center for Mind-Body Medicine and Faculty at American Viniyoga Institute. Ellen runs workshops & retreats, and mentors professionals. Her areas of expertise include chronic and life-threatening conditions as well as pain management and end-of-life care.
Ever since his daughter was in kindergarten, Garth Callaghan put a small inspirational note, written on a napkin, in her lunch box. When he was diagnosed with cancer a third time, Garth worried that he wouldn’t make it to his daughter’s graduation, and neither would his notes. He decided to write them in advance, just in case, for all 826 remaining school days.
Garth encourages people to write notes and create deeper relationships; to do something that uplifts the lives of others. It doesn’t have to be what we commonly define as a “big” thing. Like a napkin note, something small can have a tremendous impact.
Amy Pickard made her living as a freelance TV producer and broadcaster and has written for the Austin American Statesman, London’s Daily Mail on Sunday, BUST and REAL SIMPLE magazine. After her mom’s sudden death in 2012, she experienced a tectonic spiritual transformation and discovered her cosmic calling by creating an unconventional advance planning company called Good To Go!. Her mission is to change the cultural narrative on how we view death preparedness, dying and the aftermath…by having a party! She recently drove across America giving Good To Go! pop up parties and experiencing rock and roll epiphanies along the way. She is currently working on a podcast called “Here, There and Everywhere,” interviewing artists about grief, loss and the cosmos. Amy is on a mission to spread the death preparedness message to the mainstream through popular culture and she envisions facilitating G2G! workshops for corporate retreats, creating Virgin Nursing Homes with Richard Branson and getting all of her favorite musicians Good To Go!
Lizzy Miles, MA, MSW, LSW is a hospice social worker in Columbus, Ohio and an editor and writer for Pallimed.org. Lizzy authored a book of happy hospice stories: Somewhere In Between: The Hokey Pokey, Chocolate Cake, and the Shared Death Experience. Lizzy is best known for bringing the Death Cafe concept to the United States.
Follow on Twitter @LizzyMiles_MSW
Ned Buskirk is the creator and host of the 501c3 nonprofit You’re Going to Die, a movement intent on bringing people creatively into the conversation of death and dying, through unabashedly confronting loss and mortality. The first live event was held on March 6th, 2009, as a simple poetry night held in the golden belly of a San Francisco apartment. Now the live event series, You’re Going To Die: Poetry, Prose & Everything Goes … encompasses more than simply open mics and live shows, but is also an online international community creatively engaging with our shared mortality and all its inevitabilities.
“While I think there are several reasons to account for the movement’s success, I’m certain the greatest cause for its momentum and relentless support is that we, as community, desperately need communal spaces, online and off, to gather and grieve, to suffer the losses we’ve endured and/or stand to lose eventually, to be with one another in this often unspoken truth that we ALL share: We Are All going to Die Eventually. Let’s accept that fact together and see how we can use this truth to inform and inspire better lives.”
Karen Wyatt, MD
I became a student of death and dying as a hospice doctor. While I knew about pain and symptom management, I was learning about death itself from my patients.. They helped me understand impermanence; the fact that everything dies, everything changes.. They taught me how to practice forgiveness because so many were working on forgiveness. Many patients said to me, ‘Why do I have so much wisdom now, when I’m only going to be alive for a few days?’ ‘Why do I have this insight, this way of seeing things when I’m not going to be here to share it?’ I realized I could be the dying’s voice, that everyone should have access to this information now, not during their last days of life. This realization led to writing What Really Matters. It took me 12 years to finish. I encountered so much resistance when I first started writing and shared its ideas that I put it away for a long time. The world wasn’t ready then. Now it is.
Alan Alberts is a harbinger of our culture’s changing relationship with death and dying. He chose elective death through Voluntarily Stopping Eating and Drinking (VSED) rather than suffering the disassociated life of Alzheimer’s. His wife, Phyllis Shacter, intimately participated in Alan’s death. Together, they embody the emerging paradigm of couples, families and friends embracing individual death as a shared experience through which all, the living and the dead, are united in a heightened awareness of life, love and one another.
Kathleen Dreier is an international documentary and event photographer currently based in Tucson, Arizona. Kathleen’s work involves short and long-term assignments, select donated service, and personal projects. Kathleen is also a professional social worker with over 25 years experience (child and vulnerable adult abuse, domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, poverty). This combined skill set gives Kathleen a unique doorway into establishing rapport with clients and strangers alike. Kathleen’s photography has been largely informed as a student of Mary Ellen Mark and a multi-year workshop assistant for Mary Virginia Swanson.
Nadia Hagen Born in Manhattan on Jan. 19, 1964, Nadia spent her childhood running amok in Central Park and The Natural History Museum. At 17, underwhelmed by suburbia, she ran away from home to join a hippie circus and spent the next few years in musical projects and black-box theatres.
From 1989-90, she toured and recorded with the infamous tribal industrial project CRASH WORSHIP. These chaotic experiments strengthened her creative affinity with environmental theatre and ritual.
In 1995, Nadia was awarded an Artist In Residence Grant from Tucson Performance Art Center and collaborated with local artists to create MMOS (Many Mouths One Stomach.)
MMOS’s first project was the The All Fools Pageant—marching drum corps, crowd-interactive street performance, large-scale puppets and fire art set along an urban parade route. This became the model for The All Souls Procession that Nadia has been directing since 1998.