By Mindy Keskinen

“We are all beginners when it comes to dying and death,” says Anne Murphy, an end-of-life edu­cator, of St. Paul.

Anne Murphy

“Deepening our relationship with death is a way to deepen our bonds with ourselves, each other and the planet,” she adds.

In a two-session Zoom series in November, open to all, Murphy will show viewers how they can approach the end of life in ways that honor the earth as well as meet human needs. Cohosted by two groups (Transition Town–ASAP and the Earthwise Team of St. Paul’s United Church of Christ), the sessions are free.

To register for either or both sessions, email Communications@TransitionASAP.org or visit the events section of the Facebook page for Transition Town–All St. Anthony Park.

If these topics feel timely, you’re not alone. COVID-19 has reminded many people of their own mortality. Some folks have cared for, and grieved for, loved ones with the illness.

And this year, the undeniable effects of climate change are showing the high stakes of our choices as societies and as individuals. In so many ways, we can set an example by changing our practices—including death practices—to empower ourselves and help ecosystems heal. Besides, autumn is a natural time to consider the cycle of life, death and regeneration.

Session 1:
“Beginning with the end”
Monday, Nov. 16, 7–8 p.m.

In this introductory session, Murphy will show attendees the surprisingly wide range of choices for imagining the end of life. “Only 20 percent of us will die without warning; most of us will have some kind of diagnosis,” she says. “Knowing this can allow us to explore beliefs, priorities and wishes so they are congruent with our personal, emotional and spiritual needs.”

Better yet, viewers can consider these questions even further in advance and develop their thinking with those close to them. What’s most important to them now? Where would they like to die and with whom? How would they like to be remembered? These questions and more will be explored.

Session 2:
“Living green, dying green”
Monday, Nov. 30, 7–8 p.m.

In this more practical session, viewers will learn about the earth friendly burial and cremation options now available in the Twin Cities. Natural or “green” burial and disposition offer ways for the environmentally conscious person to ensure that their own after-death care will conserve natural resources, reduce carbon emissions, protect others’ health and preserve habitat. They’ll learn about the history of current conventional disposition practices, types of green burial and flameless cremation, their legal rights as consumers, costs and local resources.

About this collaboration

Under the banner “A Thousand Hands,” Anne Murphy works with individuals, families and communities as a death educator, home vigil guide and funeral celebrant. Learn more at AThousandHands.com. A co-founder of Minnesota Death Collaborative, she is affiliated with the National Home Funeral Alliance, National End-of-Life Doula Alliance and the Land Conservation Natural Burial Group.

For this project, the Transition Town group is teaming with St. Paul’s UCC, based in the Summit Hill neighborhood (spucconsummit.org). Members of the church’s Earthwise Team have lent a hand with several Transition projects and this one resonated with their own ongoing learning.

“We’ve examined many ways we can be more faithful in our care of creation,” noted one member, David Weiss. “This topic invites us to consider how we care for the bit of creation in which we most directly dwell— our own ­bodies— particularly in their mortality. Embracing finitude this personally seems crucial as we seek to live more graciously on a finite planet.”

Mindy Keskinen lives in St. Anthony Park.

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