Making death conversations fun!

“Arriving at an acceptance of one’s mortality is a process, not an epiphany.”
– Atul Gawande

By Althea Halchu

Imagine a group of old (mature) friends gathered for a “girls” weekend in balmy Florida. The friendships started in grammar school and have continued for the better part of 50 years. These women have met at least once a year for more than 25 years and shared life’s ups and downs. On this trip, one of the women pulls out a deck of cards called Talk of a Lifetime, and the play begins. I don’t have to imagine, they were my cards and my friends, and we spent the evening sipping wine, taking turns uncovering questions from the deck, discussing end-of-life topics, and laughing! We learned much about each other’s life and end-of-life goals that night. Who would have thought talking about death could be so much fun?

Conversations with loved ones and providers are crucial to the advanced care planning process. In a recent AARP survey of 2,000 adults, “54 percent had not completed a medical power of attorney or advance care directive, and a whopping 62 percent of those said they had not gotten around to it; 15 percent said they did not know how; and 13 percent said they did not like talking about these things.”

Here is a fun solution for those who have their head in the sand. The following games are designed to help people have those conversations in a painless and fun way. Try them out over the mashed potatoes or wine at your next family gathering.

1. Talk of a Lifetime. Created by the National Funeral Directors Association offers 50 cards with 50 questions to help you learn more about your loved ones. Players share stories about life, the things that matter most, and how they want to be remembered.

2. Hello Game is the easy, non-threatening way to start a conversation with your family and friends about living and dying and what matters most to you.

3. Go Wish gives you an easy, even entertaining way to talk about what is most important to you. The cards help you find words to talk about what is important if you were to be living a life that may be shortened by serious illness.

4. The Death Deck is a party game that lets you explore a topic we’re all obsessed with but often afraid to discuss, DEATH. With a playful tone and a sense of humor, The Death Deck is a game and tool that allows friends and family members to open up and share thoughts, stories, and preferences about life and death in a non-threatening and surprisingly fun way. Players partner up to guess answers to deep, funny, and sometimes weird questions on death. With 112 cards and numerous ways to play, The Death Deck encourages lively conversations and life-changing dialogue.

5. Heart to Heart Cards game is designed to make it easier for a family member, a caregiver, or a health provider to understand what a loved one wants through the EOL. Each card is in English and Chinese and is designed to help reach Chinese-speaking community members. However, they can be used by healthy individuals who want family members or friends to know what they would like when their lives may be threatened by injury or disease.

6. Heart2Hearts: Advance Care Planning cards provide 52 conversation starters about advanced care planning. Be prepared to have the most meaningful conversation of your life. Playing, completing the innovative workbook, and discussing it with your loved ones will give them a priceless gift…peace of mind. They will know your wishes and can follow them if you cannot make health care decisions yourself.

7. Elephant in the Room is a set of 96 cards in 4 categories of scenarios and questions for discussion. Each individual can confirm their preferences, enhance communication with their family and health care team, provide time for family and other loved ones to understand decisions, and relieve uncertainty or guilt about decision-making. These are personal conversations, not medical consultations, and they will require a loving commitment of time and attention from all involved.

8. Death Conversation Game facilitates open thinking and conversations on death in safe, respectful environments of chosen friends, family, students, clients, colleagues, or strangers. The depth and breadth of the conversation depend on you. Whether it’s death-related theology, ideology, metaphysics, bookish details, relationship considerations, bereavement, and a number of other subjects. Available online only through Apple or Android.

9. GraveTalk from the Church of England offers 50 unique cards for use in small groups, each with a thought-provoking question to start the end-of-life conversation.

Life: What is important in your life? How would you like to be remembered?

Death: What experiences of death have you had so far? What do you think death means?

Funerals: What will happen when you die? Do you need to make any plans or choices now?

Let the games and conversations begin!

Complete Article HERE!

Can we choose the moment we die?

— So many stories of dying people holding on until a loved one reaches the bedside or leaves the room make some think we may have some control over when we pass away

by Eve Glicksman

The man had promised his betrothed daughter he would walk her down the aisle. So, at the recommendation of the doctor treating him for advanced lung cancer, the wedding date was moved up by two months.

“He was a man of his word,” says Charles von Gunten, the oncologist treating him. It took enormous energy for his bed-bound patient to dress for the occasion, held in a hospice facility, and accompany his daughter down the aisle in a wheelchair, von Gunten says.

That evening, after the reception, the father of the bride died.

You may have heard a version of this story before. A parent hangs on to life until a child arrives. Or against all medical odds, someone lives to see the birth of a grandchild. Or family members sit by the bedside for two days and the loved one dies when they step out for lunch.

Can people choose the moment they die?

Lizzy Miles, a hospice social worker in Columbus, Ohio, sees it all the time. Miles’s own great aunt died “the very second her chaplain walked in the room,” she said. Her great aunt, of strong faith, had been nonresponsive and inexplicably alive for days. In hindsight, the family believes she was waiting for the chaplain.

“All these things happen [often] enough that those who work in the field aren’t surprised,” says von Gunten, a pioneer of palliative medicine in the 1990s and editor in chief of the Journal of Palliative Medicine.

One theory is that a hormonal stimulus may enable us to hang on until a special event or loved one’s arrival. “What people will do for one another in the name of love is extraordinary,” von Gunten says. “I think of it as a gift when it happens.”

But there are limits. To be clear, no scientific evidence exists that we can control the moment we die. If we could will our death, there would be no right-to-die movement or legal battles over euthanasia.

‘Just done living’

Felice LePar, an oncologist with Alliance Cancer Specialists in the Philadelphia area, also believes that people may have some sway over the timing of their death. LePar cautions families that patients sometimes die quickly after deciding on hospice; this, despite no change in their medical condition.

“We can’t fully understand it,” she says. “Some people decide that they are just done living.” Other times, when reviewing lab tests, she wonders how a patient can still be alive.

“My rule of thumb is that when someone says ‘I think it’s soon,’ I listen,” von Gunten says. “They tend to know more than I do” about when they’re dying.

Few scientific studies have explored our last moments of life. Protectiveness and respect for the deceased figure into that. Dying is seen as sacred across all cultures and getting approval from ethical review boards for such studies is difficult, von Gunten says.

Questions about potential harm to participants and intrusiveness arise, Miles add. “Do we bother people while they’re dying to ask questions?” she says. “This is a tender moment for people.”

Sociologist Glenys Caswell in Nottinghamshire, England, a self-described death studies scholar, has studied people who have died alone and stresses that it is not always sad.

“We all want different things in dying as we do in our living,” Caswell says. “Some [who are dying] don’t want people fussing over them or want to be alone when they aren’t feeling well. Others don’t want to distress their family.”

The hospice-at-home nurses whom Caswell interviewed during her research believe we have some measure of control over death after watching many patients die after loved ones left the room. “Hearing voices may be what was holding them on to life,” Caswell says. When the family leaves, they are able to relax and let go, she says.

Protective gesture

Waiting to die until people leave the bedside can be a protective gesture to spare loved ones who might not cope well, Miles says.

“It seems to happen most often when the patient is a parent,” she writes in one of her Pallimed blog posts. Her mother died when Miles took a short break to shower. The social worker says she felt guilty about that for years but learned to respect what seemed like her mother’s choice and personality. “Don’t project your own beliefs about what makes a good death,” Miles says she advises others who experience this.

LePar says people with a terminal illness often think more about the people they are leaving behind than about themselves. They do what they think their family wants, she says, and do not want to be a burden.

That’s why standard advice often includes giving permission to a loved one to die. “That reassurance can help people on both sides let go in peace,” von Gunten says.

“ ‘You’ve done what you need to do. We’re all right,’ ” Caswell suggests as an example of what to say.

Miles sees it differently, however: “If it is fear that is keeping a patient lingering, telling them it’s okay to let go may put unnecessary pressure on them to go before they are ready.”

An awareness of surroundings, people

How much do people in a nonresponsive state know about what’s going on around them? Researchers used electroencephalography to measure the brain response of dying hospice patients to voices and sounds, before and after they lost consciousness.

The study found evidence of the brain responding to sound stimuli, supporting the idea that patients may know when someone is in the room. The researchers could not confirm, however, whether the patients understood what they were hearing or were able to identify voices.

Hospice workers refrain from saying people are “unconscious,” preferring the term “nonresponsive,” Miles writes on her blog. Even actively dying patients seem to have an awareness of what’s going on in the room, she says. Minute gestures — the fluttering of an eye, a swallow or a head turn — can be a response. One patient started breathing along with the music she put on, “almost like he was conducting,” she recalls.

I am convinced my father could hear me while dying despite his deep-sleep appearance. He squeezed my hand once and there was an upward head tilt when I said I’d take care of my mother. Then, a funny, bemused lift of the brow when I said I would write about him.

More convincingly, I had been updating my father regularly on my brother and sister-in-law’s journey to be there as I received word in texts — the flight delay, rental car line, traffic. Within 15 minutes of my brother’s arrival, my father died after holding on, nonresponsive, for 16 hours.

Death is not well-understood

“It’s impossible to know, let alone prove or disprove,” says Sam Parnia, about whether we can influence our time of death. Parnia is an expert in the scientific study of cardiac arrest and death and associate professor of critical care medicine at New York University Grossman School of Medicine.

What Parnia is sure about from his research is that death is not a fixed moment and that it is not well understood. Parnia has studied thousands of testimonies from people who were resuscitated after being considered dead. They consistently described feeling conscious, lucid and aware of what was going on after their heart stopped.

“Calling the time of death when the heart stops beating and the body and brain stop functioning reflects social convention rather than the science of what is happening to the body biologically,” Parnia says. “Studies have shown categorically that our brain cells do not die for many hours after we die.”

Von Gunten advises people to behave around the dying the same as always — not being afraid they will break if you hold them, for example.

“You don’t have to keep children quiet and lights don’t have to be dimmed,” he says. “Whispering outside the door is the worst thing you can do if that person always wants to know everything.”

Ideally, the dying person will have talked to family and friends about their end-of-life wishes beforehand, Caswell says. Who do you want at your bedside, or do you prefer solitude? Do you want to listen to a cherished symphony during your last hours or have someone read a favorite poem? It’s a hard conversation to have but everyone benefits from that openness, Caswell says.

Dying is the last thing you do in life. Why shouldn’t it be exactly as you want it, and maybe even the moment you want it.

Complete Article HERE!

What ‘old age’ actually means as a cause of death

By Gabriella Ferlita

The Queen’s cause of death has been announced, and people are now wondering what it really means.

After spending more than 70 years on the throne and dying at age 96, the cause of the Queen’s passing has recently been announced as that of ‘old age’.

While it’s very common to hear that somebody has died ‘of old age’, the phenomenon in itself is extremely rare from a medical perspective.

While we often mean that an older person has died of complications attributed to their age, like pneumonia, or as a result of a heart attack, it should only be provided as the sole cause of death in ‘very limited circumstances’ by a coroner on somebody’s death certificate.

The Queen’s cause of death has officially been announced. Credit: Graham Hunt / Alamy Stock Photo
The Queen’s cause of death has officially been announced.

Ageing, in itself, cannot cause somebody to die. There is, however, a condition called ‘Geriatric failure to thrive’, which medical professionals have studied which ‘describes a state of decline’ in older patients who may experience ‘weight loss, decreased appetite, poor nutrition, and inactivity.’

According to GP notebook, there are few situations in which ‘old age’ can be penned as somebody’s cause of death by a medical professional – including having ‘personally caring for the deceased over a long period (years, or many months)’ and ‘observing a gradual decline in your patient’s general health and function.’

Other situations which would allow such a prognosis includes a lack of awareness around ‘any identifiable disease or injury that contributed to the death’, and being ‘certain that there is no reason that the death should be reported to the coroner’.

'Old age' is rarely used as a cause of death on a medical certificate. Credit: Unsplash
‘Old age’ is rarely used as a cause of death on a medical certificate.

They also add: “It is unlikely that patients would be admitted to an acute hospital if they had no apparent disease or injury.”

Doctors are also advised to also mention ‘as appropriate, any medical or surgical conditions that may have contributed to the death’ alongside ‘old age’.

Doctors are also advised to also mention ‘as appropriate, any medical or surgical conditions that may have contributed to the death’ alongside ‘old age’.

Complete Article HERE!

Final moments of life have one thing in common

— Three professionals who work with death and dying have described the one thing they all have in common.

By Bek Day

Woody Allen famously said “I’m not afraid of death, I just don’t want to be there when it happens,” and whatever you think of the scandal-plagued filmmaker’s behaviour in life, it’s a sentiment many can agree with.

“We live in a death-denying culture,” says Dr Merran Cooper, who is also trained as an end-of-life doula and physiotherapist. “By denying the possibility we might die, and having conversations about it, we deny ourselves the opportunity to have the most important conversations of our lives with the most important people.”

But just what are those all-important final moments like for people? Is death really as frightening as we think?

News.com.au spoke to three professionals who work with death and dying and their descriptions all had one major thing in common: it’s usually more peaceful than you might expect.

Camilla Rowland, CEO of Palliative Care Australia

“My experience has been that usually as the different organs start to shut down, people come in and out of a semiconscious state, and it is usually very peaceful,” Camilla explains, adding that the feeling of someone’s ‘spirit’ ‘energy’ filling the room is also common.

“I’ve had that experience, and also many other members of my palliative care team have said that as well, that they felt the spirit of the person around them. And that’s not necessarily a religious thing, it’s just a feeling that occurs. I’ve had people from all walks of life and all different belief systems say the same thing.”

Patsy Bingham, Death Doula

“Peace, calm, relief, hysteria – there could be any one of these feelings depending on who died, how they died and whether they were too young to die,” explains Patsy.

“But for everyone, it is a defined moment in time, and I have a habit of looking at the clock when someone takes their last breath, as family members don’t, and then ask later.”

Dr Merran Cooper, CEO of Touchstone Life Care

“Everyone dies differently but most commonly, when death is expected, a person begins to sleep more, and breath more shallowly until it is very hard to tell whether they are breathing or not,” Dr Cooper explains.

“It can be a peaceful thing to watch. There are noises that worry the person watching, and even bleeding which is distressing to watch, but for the person dying, they slowly move to a place of deeper and deeper unconsciousness until they do not take the next breath.”

Complete Article HERE!

How to plan for the death of a loved one

By Joel Theisen

The end of life doesn’t need to be filled with pain, frustration, guilt and clashing family dynamics.

My grandpa was dying of bone cancer, an especially gruesome way to go. He’d shriveled down to 85 pounds. The bathtub was one of the few things that brought him comfort.

So there we sat in his final days as he talked about his life and the things he cared about. He was riddled with pain, yet cracking jokes right and left. We spent hours laughing out loud. It was his way of telling me that he was at peace. And it was one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve had as a human being.

After 30 years as a nurse and chief executive of a senior care company that has served over a million lives in the community and within senior housing, I’ve experienced more than my share of death. I learned that the end of life needn’t be filled with pain and frustration, with guilt and clashing family dynamics. It can be a time to cherish the spark in a loved one’s eye, their spirit and wisdom. And that we can help them die in the most positive way possible.

Your wishes codified

I’ve seen it often through the years. A terminal illness arrives. The dying person’s last wishes aren’t in place. Now tough decisions need to be made in a moment of crisis. Everyone in the family has their own opinion, freighted by our cultural fear of death. I’ve seen it get ugly, with families torn apart. Our loved one doesn’t get the death she wants.

I’ve also seen the opposite, when death is peaceful and lovely. The difference is usually a POLST–portable medical orders — an end of life plan conceived with your doctor that travels with you from hospital to nursing home, or wherever your journey takes you. The idea is to outline your wishes before crisis hits, rather than leaving it to group decisions in times of trauma.

You can take a curative route, signifying your willingness to undergo any treatment as long as there’s a shot. You can take a palliative path, which focuses more on bringing relief and comfort to your final days. Or you can choose a mixture of both, dictating whether you want such things as a feeding tube, a ventilator, or to even be taken to a hospital at all.

The POLST informs family and facilities of exactly what you want. When those final days arrive and family gathers at bedside, there’s no need to speculate on medical choices. Everything that’s important is already in place.

Hospice

Chances are that a loved one with a terminal condition is already eligible for hospice care, offered free to Medicare recipients who’ve been certified by a doctor as having six or less months to live. The program was conceived by the federal government after realizing that people were spending most of their money during the last two years of life. Their savings were being drained by extraordinary measures that didn’t really help, rather than concentrating on the supportive care they truly needed.

Instead of sending you to a hospital, hospice comes to you, be it your home of 40 years, or your apartment in an assisted living facility, or even a relative’s house. It’s all about comfort. You’ll be cared for by experts in death and dying whose mission is to provide the least restrictive experience possible.

Nurses, aides, and physicians work within your plan. They can bring you a hospital bed to help you sleep or equipment to help you breathe. There’s spiritual care, music therapy, visiting aides, volunteers, and bereavement coverage for family. There’s also a pain management plan, with the goal of making the end of life as serene as possible.

The most peaceful deaths I’ve seen are when people die in their own homes on their own terms. The Medicare hospice program helps make that happen, especially when it’s used sooner than the final days of life.

This doesn’t mean you can’t turn back. We’re humans. We get scared. You can leave hospice whenever you want for one last shot with chemo and radiation. The larger point is that you and your family are educated early, preparing emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. And that someone will be with you the entire journey, holding mom’s hand — or your hand if that’s what you need — to help you make the most of those final days.

I know about trauma. My sister died in a car crash at age 43, leaving behind two kids. It was a horrific experience, but we’ve chosen to make the most of it.

Every year we take a family vacation. And every year we set aside time to celebrate my sister. We talk about our feelings and frustrations, our love and loss. It’s not always a glorious celebration. But it’s helpful.

Circumstances didn’t allow us to prepare for her death. So we’re trying to make the most of it in retrospect.

Like it or not, no one on this planet is getting out alive. Though our finish line may be the same, the ways we get there — and the methods we choose to deal with the aftermath — are often up to us. A solid plan for the final stages will help both us and our survivors. Start talking now with your loved ones. The more we do, the less we fear the inevitable. What you discover may provide the means for not just an end, but a magnificent one.

Complete Article HERE!

How to pre-plan your funeral and have the ideal final goodbye

Celebrate your death the way you want to.

How to turn your funeral into a celebration.

By Jaymie Hooper

It might be a topic you’d rather avoid but, as a growing number of Australians are discovering, organising your last goodbye can be an empowering experience. Not only can you ensure your funeral is a true celebration of your life, but you can also help to ease the grieving process for the ones you leave behind. Here’s how to make your final farewell one to remember.

When Ves Pineda attended the funeral of her friend earlier this year, she expected it to be a sombre occasion. To her surprise, and despite the gravity of her grief, Pineda found herself laughing and drinking with her pals during the wake, as they reminisced about all of the adventures they had shared with their late friend.

Instead of wallowing in an atmosphere of pervasive sadness, Pineda felt joy. She decided, then and there, that when she passes, she would like her loved ones to feel the same.

“I thought to myself, this is how I want to be remembered,” Pineda, who lives in Sydney, tells Body+Soul. “Of course, when you lose someone it’s sad, but I want my funeral to celebrate who I was, and I’m not a sad person.”

To ensure her final goodbye will be one that she would have wanted, Pineda, 62, quickly set about planning her own funeral. And while it may sound morbid, making such early arrangements is a trend that’s quickly picking up steam.

According to Carrie Siipola-Fortunaso, a pre-planning consultant for funeral service provider Guardian Plan, since the beginning of the Covid pandemic, “People have told me that planning their own funerals has become more important to them.”

As well as realising that they would rather spare their family the financial and emotional burden of planning a funeral, many people began to think about their own mortality and how they would like to be remembered, Siipola-Fortunaso says. “People started to move away from the thinking that funerals involve walking into a chapel, having a service and sharing stories about their loved ones,” she adds.“With a bit of planning, your funeral can be anything you want it to be.”

For Pineda, her funeral planning process began with a simple conversation. “I sat down with my husband and daughter and we talked about the things that I love, everything that makes me ‘me’ and how we could weave those into the service,”she explains. “The more I thought about it, the more it made sense to put down on paper the ways I want my friends and family to come together and remember me when the time comes.”

Planning your own funeral, while ensuring that you receive the send-off you’ve always wanted, can also alleviate some of the strain placed on your loved ones in the aftermath of your death. “It definitely takes the pressure off family and friends who often feel rushed to make important decisions while grieving,” Allison Barrett, owner of event-planning business My PerfectParty, tells Body+Soul.

By formalising your ideas now, you lower the risk of future confrontations arising between your loved ones after you’ve passed. “The more we know about each other’s wishes, the easier it can be to make decisions when we are freshly grieving,” clinical psychologist Jo Lamble tells Body+Soul.

But try to keep things flexible because being too rigid may also incite arguments. “Some negative emotions can arise when the person planning their own funeral makes decisions that will be difficult to carry out, such as forbidding certain people from attending,” Lamble explains. “Leave a little scope for others to celebrate your life in their own way – it makes it easier for those left behind to grieve.”

So, do you need to wait until you’re dying to begin planning your funeral? Absolutely not, assures Barrett, who has told her own family that she would like guests to nibble on party pies and dance to ABBA’s ‘Dancing Queen’ at what she calls her “party wake”.

“Unfortunately, many people don’t plan anything, but many funeral homes would like you to plan in advance,” she advises.“You don’t need to pre-pay, but you can pre-plan and leave your funeral plan with a preferred funeral home.”

Siipola-Fortunaso agrees, adding that if you do decide to pre-pay now, it can help you lock in a price without having to worry about inflation. While it may not be something you ever wanted to do, planning your own farewell can ultimately prove to be an act of empowerment that allows both you and your loved ones to feel a sense of peace around your eventual passing.

“As the saying goes, we can be hit by the proverbial bus at any time, so it’s worth having some general chats about what you’d like at your funeral, whenever that may be,” Lamble adds.

For Pineda, the fact that there is now a degree of certainty around her final goodbye has given her immense relief. “It brings me a lot of comfort to think that when I leave this Earth, the people I love most will be together,” she says, “hopefully sitting in the sunshine on a clear morning, drinking rosé and listening to mellow ’80s hits – the stuff I used to dance to in my 20s.”

3 ways to turn your service into a celebration

Allison Barrett, owner of My Perfect Party event-planning business, shares her advice for arranging a funeral your guests can smile about.

1. Stick to what you know

Serve your favourite food and drinks, ask guests to wear your favourite colours (or bright colours), and play the music you love most. You might consider live music, or asking a family member to sing (if they can).

2. Bring the laughs

Ask family members and friends to make short speeches and let them tell funny stories about you.

3. Make it personal

Put together a photo presentation of your life and choose your favourite songs to accompany it – this has been done for years and is still really popular. And there are now coffins that can be personalised with your favourite footy team colours, or with notes from funeral guests.

How to start preparing for your final goodbye

Carrie Siipola-Fortunaso, pre-planning consultant for Guardian Plan funerals, says there are two key things you need to know.

1. What you want

First, think about the most basic question – do you want to be cremated or buried? Then start thinking about what your final party will look like. When helping someone plan their funeral, I try to find out how they grew up, what their hobbies are and what they enjoy in life. I use this to come up with a funeral plan that is reflective of who they are.

2. The admin

A copy of your funeral plan contract should be provided to your next of kin and the executor of your will. You can also provide a copy to your solicitor and other family members so that all are aware of your wishes. I suggest my clients email a copy of their plan to their family for easy access.

You should also print out a hardcopy to be retained with all estate-planning documents. It is a good idea to include it in your will – although we often find that the will is not read until after the funeral has taken place.

Complete Article HERE!

The funeral industry turns people into toxic waste.

— California needs green burial options

By Amelia Gallegos

For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by death. As a child, it inspired my curiosity about the life cycle. As an adult, it inspired my career. As a funeral director who specializes in environmentally-friendly funeral services, I meet many Californians who reach out wanting to find the most sustainable deathcare option.

That Californians would want sustainable alternatives to traditional burial and cremation makes sense. California has long been a leader when it comes to environmental protections. But there’s no reason those protections can’t extend through a person’s entire life cycle.

Traditional burial and cremation practices are disastrous for the environment. Traditional burial puts over 800,000 gallons of formaldehyde (a known carcinogen), 104,000 tons of steel, 1.6 million tons of reinforced concrete, and 30 million board feet of hardwood in the ground across the United States every year. For perspective, that is more steel than was used in the construction of the Golden Gate bridge. Every year.

Cremation presents its own issues. The average cremation emits an estimated 534.6 pounds of CO2. With 300,000 people dying in California in 2020, and 65% of Californians choosing to be cremated, our state released well over 100 million pounds of CO2 in cremations that year alone. During the pandemic, air quality standards in Los Angeles had to be suspended to allow for the backlog of cremations.

Californians and the planet deserve better.

“Human composting,” or natural organic reduction (NOR) is a regenerative, sustainable alternative to traditional burial or cremation that gently transforms the body into a cubic-yard of nutrient rich soil. In NOR, a body is placed in a steel vessel on a bed of wood chips and other biodegradable materials that allow it to naturally decompose. Once the decomposition process has fully converted the remains into soil—a process that typically takes around 30 days—the soil is then returned to the family. From there, families can decide to scatter or plant with the soil or to donate it to be used for land conservation and restoration.

Ranging in cost from $5,500 to $7,000, NOR is cheaper than traditional burial in California—which costs on average $7,225—and is comparable in cost to cremation in the state—which has an average price tag of $6,028. But unlike traditional burial and cremation, NOR actually supports the environment.

In 2019, Washington became the first state to legalize NOR, followed by Colorado, Oregon and Vermont. Environmentally conscious Californians I meet that are planning to have their body transported out of state in order to access NOR tell me they’re doing so because they want their last act to mirror how they lived their lives. They want their passing to have a positive environmental impact.

Fortunately, Californians seeking NOR may soon no longer have to travel out of state. Earlier this year, Assemblymembers Cristina Garcia and Robert Rivas introduced AB 351. The bill, which passed in the state legislature with strong bipartisan support, would legalize NOR in California—making ours the fifth state in the nation to approve soil transformation deathcare. The bill is currently awaiting approval from Governor Newsom.

True, Californians already have some green alternatives to traditional burial and cremation. Green burials, in which a body is buried in a shroud and water cremation, first legalized in 2017, are both options. But having some eco-friendlier alternatives doesn’t preclude the state from providing its residents with another—especially when that option offers significant savings in carbon emissions, water, and land usage.

Nothing is more clear and natural in death than returning to the earth itself. By signing AB 351 into law, the governor can ensure that every Californian has the option to choose the most sustainable option in deathcare.

Complete Article HERE!