Death Cafe Austin, the details

Death Cafe Austin is scheduled the first Wednesday of every month at 6:30pm.


Starting in January 2016, Death Cafe Austin will be held at:

Life in the City Church, 205 E. Monroe

(location previously was Grace United Methodist Church)


Parking is free on the south side of Monroe (don’t park on the north side) and in the lot on the north side of Christ Lutheran church at 300 East Monroe.


For More Information:

Lost?  Call Joe at 512-587-9792.  He’ll help you find it.

Questions?  Call Brooks (moderator) at (512)444-8100.

Also, check the Death Cafe Austin Facebook Page

A Call to Action: Funeral Choice AT RISK

Legislation pending in Virginia threatens families’ rights to hold home funerals, proposed by a Senator who gasp is also a funeral director.

And who stands to directly benefit, along with his cronies, from such an unreasonable and unsupportable restriction of the current rights of citizens.

Watch and learn:



For further information:  an op-ed explaining various angles (and the realities of the risks) of home funerals .

Specifically, from the article:

Legal requirements that human remains must be embalmed or refrigerated after death are classic examples of industry rent-seeking. By requiring “refrigeration,” particularly at a specific temperature, rather than simply permitting cooling via dry ice or other means, these states place heavy burdens on families and religious communities that want to care for remains at home.


The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that “[t]here is no direct risk of contagion or infectious disease from being near human remains for people who are not directly involved … handling dead bodies.” The CDC further advises that those directly handling human remains can protect themselves from potential bacteria and viruses by wearing gloves and washing their hands. “The sight and smell of decay are unpleasant,” the CDC advises, “but they do not create a public health hazard.” The World Health Organization (WHO) agrees. “The widespread belief that corpses pose a major health risk is inaccurate. Especially if death resulted from trauma, bodies are very unlikely to cause outbreaks of diseases…” The WHO also advises that “[d]ead or decayed human bodies do not generally create a serious health hazard, unless they are polluting sources of drinking-water…”


But if Sen. Alexander from Virginia has his way, all that medical opinion and fact around dead body care won’t matter–that you are required by law to buy (expensive) refrigeration from a funeral home will be the only fact in play.

And don’t think for a minute that legislators bought and paid for by big funeral conglomerates and lobbying groups don’t have a list of states to try and push this kind of robbery through next…

Shocked? Angry?  I sure am!    So what can we do?

  1. Sign the petition requesting the governor not sign the bill if it makes it to his desk.
  2. If you live in Virginia, contact your congresswomen immediately to let them know of your opposition to this bill, as it’s currently in committee in the house.   Also, contact your governor and let your displeasure be heard there as well.
  3. If you live elsewhere, keep a watchful eye in your own state for attempts to pass ridiculous rules such as these.   In Delaware, recent changes make it a misdemeanor to share information about funeral home pricing with anyone else with the intent to direct their business.  Never mind that you legally have to be given the information for free when you ask–if you share it with anyone else, you are a criminal.
  4. Consider joining your local chapter of the Funeral Consumers Alliance, and/or supporting the national body as well.  This watchdog group of advocates leads the charge on keeping the industry from instituting unfair and unethical practices on grieving consumers.


Any questions?  Have a thought to share?  Call me, or leave a note here, and let’s talk!

Death Positivity, the Primer


A couple of times now in this space, I’ve mentioned Death Positivity and being death positive.   If it’s new or confusing to you, there’s no wonder–it’s a fairly new concept, although one could argue that some people have been death positive as long as there have been people, and that our pre-20th century world was, by default, much more in touch with the reality of death .  But in our 21st century, this physical and digital adventure, what does it really mean for you–and does it really matter?




Being death positive simply means you’re aware of and open to mortality–yours and others–and that you’re choosing to live without the shields that modern society (artful dodger of reality, innovator of euphemisms like slumber rooms and dearly departed and passed away) puts around death.   Death positivity takes a realist’s view of death, one that understands that death will happen to each and every one of us, and uses that leverage to increase comfort and acceptance within that familiarity.   It demands that, rather than ignoring and avoiding the topic, we embrace, plan for, and even celebrate it as a part of life.

The death positivity movement has several stand-out champions, along with legions of behind-the-scenes actors, folks making a difference in their own way in their own corner of the world.  Many who work in hospice and palliative care naturally embrace death positivity, because their work naturally demands open acknowledgment of the universality and imminence of death.   A great many folks carrying the death positivity flag are funeral directors (although some still labor mightily to maintain the euphemism and we-don’t-talk-about-it-ness of death in their slumber rooms.)   There is a nice subfield of academics who also publish and research on death topics who stand out for death positivity , as well as a phalanx of other related professionals (planners like me, artists who create or collect memento mori and/or death related products, cemetery afficionados, and the like) .


Curious?  Want to learn more about being Death Positive?

Start here:

More into Videos?

Caitlin Doughty  (funeral director/author/Death Positive Movement leader) does a witty and engaging video series called Ask a Mortician.    Her blunt, factual style is blended with a heavy dose of humor, perfect for busting open taboo topics and making it okay to find them SUPER interesting!    If you appreciate her style, you might also enjoy her book Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.

Other Ways to Explore Death Positivity

  • Death Salon is a semi-regular gathering of academics and other death positive folks, who come together in part celebration, part family reunion, part learning opportunity.  I had the chance to attend Death Salon in Philadelphia in 2015, and found the energy of talking openly all death, all the time to be incredible.   Death Salon’s next endeavor is a film festival in September 2016 in Houston–if you’re a film buff, check it out!


  • Death Cafe is an open discussion salon that has spread across the world; most major cities (and many smaller towns) have regularly scheduled death cafes.   The idea of death cafe is simple–gather over a sweet treat to openly discuss aspects of death and dying, in a freeform way, with participants setting the pace.  Death Cafe isn’t a substitute for therapy or grief work, but is a safe space for people to explore the many facets of their thoughts about death.  If you’re interested in more, and you’re in Austin, you can find Death Cafe Austin on Facebook .

And more:

If you’re still curious and want to exercise your Death Positivity muscles a little bit more, consider the following:


Have questions?  Wanna talk death?  Ready to dig in and plan your final arrangements?

Let’s do it!  Call me (512)763-7185.

Valentine’s Day, Death Positive Style

In the mood for a little romance and love this February?

Death Positive Valentines 1Death Positive Valentines 2


Maybe not even death will be able to part some of you sweet couples!


But seriously–curious about the idea of being Death Positive?   You’ll find a little bit about it here, in a posting from November. Next Wednesday, we’ll explore the concept a little more in depth, and discuss ways to live Death Positive in your own way.



The Caring I Hope You Never Need to Know

In my readings and traveling, I run into a lot of death-related stuff–some of it funny, much of it thankfully factual and reality based, lots of it just heartwrenching.

One of the heartening and surprising parts of being death-positive, and working to bring death–its reality, its inevitability–into polite society is getting to learn about and better understand all the facets and workers and places which come together in service of death.  I’ve had the chance to meet so many extraordinary people who work in death and dying, and learn from their essays, tweets, and ideas!  Today’s essay is one of those, a jewel of reassurance and compassion from an area of deathcare that I hadn’t ever (and hopefully won’t ever) have to consider.Ask coroner


Jacquie Purcell, a coroner in Illinois, and the co-author of Spoiler Alert: You’re Gonna Dierecently posted the following letter on her very interesting blog (Ask A Coroner).



To all the parents I have had to meet,

One of the hardest moments of my job in the Coroner’s office was having to meet you during the worst day of your life. It was the day your world stopped spinning and ceased to exist as you knew it. The day that marked the start of a painfully long and unwanted chapter. The day that the beautiful child you brought in to this world was undeservingly taken out of it. It was a day that I have unfortunately witnessed far too many times. A day that never gets easier for me to be a part of. A day that I desperately wish you never had to live. A day that I thought and felt all of the things I am telling you now.

Mothers, I heard the deep, primal sounding cries bellowing out of you as you sprawled over the precious child you just lost, soaking them with your tears. This sound pierces my heart and steals space from my soul. Each time I hear it, I pray it will be the last. Fathers, I witnessed you shake and sob and punch holes through walls, then beg me to let you take your son or daughter home. I cringe when I remember the sound of you pleading to rewind from here, to set the clock back a day and start all over again. My heart breaks as I think back on these moments, but there are a few things I want you to know…

I want you to know that I care. Then and now. I care so deeply about you and your child. I cared about all of the details you needed me to know about your child on that day. I took in every bit of the information you gave to me, because you knew them best, and I made sure to use it. This is not just a job to me and the day I met you was certainly not just “another day at the office”. I want you to know that I did everything in my power to make sure your child had what they needed. I would have stayed in the office for any length of time so that you could sit with them as long as you wanted. I want you to know that I tried to anticipate your needs and help you with anything I possibly could.

I want you to know that you didn’t have to worry about them after you planted that final kiss on their tender cheek and walked out of my door. I know you did, and probably still do, anyway, because that’s what parents do. But I hope you can worry a little less with the knowledge I was here, with a heavy heart, gently caring for them. I want you to see that I tenderly wrapped your young child in a blanket so they’d be comfortable, and that I always left the lights on in case they were afraid of the dark. I want you to know that I paused and took a moment to grieve over the days and milestones your teen almost made it to but would never get to experience. I want you to know that even though you could not be here to walk out those final steps for them, I did everything in my power to do it as well as you would.

I am completely aware of the fact that I am not you. I could never know how you feel or what you have experienced. I know that nothing would have truly helped you through this day. But I hope that you could find some small comfort in the fact that I was here, guiding your child through those last crucial steps in the same way would for my own. I want you to know that I took care to do everything properly and did my best to avoid making any mistakes. I want you to know that I fought with all that I had to get all of the answers you deserved. If justice was needed, I did everything in my power to ensure it was served.

I am horribly and truly saddened that we had to spend this day together. But I hope that in some small way, by some small measure, I played a part in the beginning of your long, restorative, healing journey. I want you to know that as that day ended, I sat at home, with tears streaming down my face, thinking of you. I want you to know that I have thought about you since that day, and I will continue think of you in the days and years ahead, because you and your beautiful child have a permanent place in my heart.


With so much love,


Deputy Coroner & Author of Spoiler Alert: You’re Gonna Die


(This letter was written for a few reasons. First and foremost, to the parents who have lost children. I just want them to know that there are people like me out here that deeply care for them and their children, especially in those final times. More importantly, I want them to know that people like me still care about and remember and grieve for them. Second, I know that in writing this, I speak for many coroners and other death investigators. The way we care for our families, whether they are children or adults, is a part of our job description as much as it is a part of who we are. You are the reason many of us come to work everyday and give our very best to the job. I wrote this in hopes that everyone becomes aware of what a coroner does. It is so much more than showing up to scenes and working on bodies. We are here for you, to find answers, comfort and assist in any way possible when it comes to the loss of your loved one. I hope that by coming to understand this, you can use us as a resource during your time of need, and that most importantly, you hold us accountable to do our jobs properly. We are here, we are available, and we want to help.)


While I hope foremost that you never have reason to need these reassurances, it warms my heart daily to know that so many good and compassionate people have found their calling working with and around death.