Community Held Death and Dying with Angela Franklin
Inside Community Podcast — Ep. 021
The subject of death is seen by many as morbid or taboo, but what if this dark topic could be life-giving, affirming, and empowering? Join me as I talk with Angela Franklin about the possibilities of end of life and death care, how communities and individuals can reimagine how they view their final days, how to plan for the end, and the importance of creating containers for grief.
In this episode
- Death, grief, and community with Angela Franklin. (0:01)
- Death, dying, and community planning. (8:48)
- Death and dying, including resources for planning a good death. (19:45)
- Home funerals and burial practices. (27:32)
- Nonprofit’s financial struggles and need for support. (37:50)
- End-of-life care and home funerals. (39:32)
- End-of-life planning and personal preferences. (47:00)
- Death as a rite of passage and creating meaningful ceremonies. (53:40)
- Creating personalized funeral rituals. (1:01:43)
- Home funeral practices and their benefits. (1:09:48)
- Grief, death, and community support. (1:16:32)
- Grief literacy and end-of-life planning. (1:24:15)
- Death and dying with Angela Franklin. (1:33:12)
About Angela Franklin
Angela is a practicing Death Midwife and Home Funeral Guide. She currently provides workforce and community trainings on a variety of topics surrounding end of life support, grief literacy, advanced care planning, and suicide prevention/postvention.
She is a founder of Journey Home, a community-driven organization based on practical death care, education, outreach, and community grieving support. Angela has lived in a variety of collective spaces and intentional communities. She is working toward death literacy and sovereignty to be brought back into our lives.
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If you want to learn more about death and dying in community or any aspect of community, check out the Inside Community Podcast sponsor, The Foundation for Intentional Community. FIC is an incredible resource center with weekly events, online courses, classified advertisements, and lots of free educational materials. Podcast listeners get 20% off in FIC Bookstore with code INSIDE20 and 30% off FIC courses with code INSIDE30. You can learn more about FIC and access transcripts at ic.org/podcast.
Thanks to our sponsors
Caddis Collaborative – caddispc.com
CohoUS – www.cohousing.org
Communities Magazine – gen-us.net/subscribe
Journey Home journeyhome.care
SOLADA Southern Oregon Living and Dying Alliance solada.org
LINKS Angela mentioned:
The Death Deck use code INSIDE20 for 20% off Death Decks
The Wild Edge of Sorrow – Book by Francis Weller
Birth Breath and Death Institute– work of Amy Wright Glenn
Super Awesome Inside Community Jingle by FIC board member Dave Booda davebooda.com
ICP theme by Rebecca Mesritz
Thanks from Rebecca, your podcast host
Angela Franklin 0:01
grief is a measure of how much we have loved something. Like if you don’t love something, if it if you don’t feel it as a loss, then you’re not going to grieve it. So that’s the that’s the hard thing. And that’s the, the promise that you kind of have to make to yourself, when you choose to love something is that it’s, it’s, it’s going to come to an end, like every relationship that we have, in some way, is going to come to an end.
Rebecca Mesritz 0:49
Greetings, and welcome to the Inside community podcast. I’m your host, Rebecca medcerts. I’m not sure where in the world you might be listening to this podcast right now. But here in Southern Oregon, we are entering the fall, a season that always seems to come so abruptly. We move suddenly from those long hot lazy days into suddenly cooler, darker mornings, leaves changing color and that brilliant crispness in the air. Like so many autumn is my favorite season. Yet it’s one that really symbolizes in so many visible and visceral ways the end of life cycles as the leaves change color and begin to fall as we pull the final fruits and vegetables from our garden. As we witnessed new fungal fruiting in the form of mushrooms starting to pop up, we are reminded everywhere of dying and loss. For many it is a season of grief or a time to reflect on the closing of chapters. So in light of all this, or maybe I should say in dark of all of this, I have wanted to do an episode on death and dying and community. It is a topic of great interest to me personally and I think something really important for communities to take a look at together. There’s such an incredible opportunity for us to redesign the way we look at end of life care, death care and grief. That can be so much more healing and empowering, then I think it has been in the mainstream world. We’re going to do a few words from my amazing sponsors and then jump right into beautiful, deep and thought provoking conversation with death midwife and home funeral guide Angela Franklin. So stick around we’ll be right back.
Rebecca Mesritz 2:40
coho us is the hub of the cohousing movement, convening individuals and organizations with a shared vision for intentional community living. expert led courses and forums on the cohousing Institute, provide the skills and expertise to build and sustain your community available both live and on demand. Join coho us for the commons a monthly gathering space for the cohousing curious the 10th of every month at 10am Mountain learn firstname.lastname@example.org. For more than 50 years communitarians community seekers and cooperative culture activists have been sharing their stories and helpful community resources and communities magazine. Over the course of the magazine’s history communities has published essays and articles from community all stars future thinkers and wisdom keepers on virtually every topic related to forming, maintaining living in and even leaving community. You can gain access to all back issues in digital form. Plus receive current print or digital issues by subscribing now at Gen hyphen us.net/subscribe. A complete Article Index, community index and issue theme list are all available online. To help you find the inspiration you’re looking for.
Rebecca Mesritz 4:09
Angela Franklin is a practicing death midwife and home funeral guide. She currently provides workforce and community trainings on a variety of topics surrounding end of life support, grief literacy, advanced care planning and suicide prevention and postvention. She is a founder of Journey Home, a community driven organization based on practical death care, education, outreach and community grieving support. Angela has lived in a variety of collective spaces and intentional communities, and is working toward death literacy and sovereignty being brought back into our lives. Angela Franklin, welcome to the Inside community podcast. Thanks for being here. Yeah,
Angela Franklin 4:52
thanks for having me.
Rebecca Mesritz 4:54
Well, I’m very excited to talk to you about this kind of, I think a subject that a lot of people find dark or spooky or taboo. And it’s kind of a strange thing to be excited to talk about. But it’s actually something that I personally am very interested in. And it’s something that I think is really needed for our culture. And I’m sure you agree to have more open and candid conversations about death and dying and grief. So I’m very, very grateful to you for taking the time to to chat with us about this.
Angela Franklin 5:34
Yeah, I get excited, being able to talk about this with people as well. And I try to create as many situations as possible to be able to do that.
Rebecca Mesritz 5:46
Yeah, well, of course, this this is a show about community and you have a bit of a community history. I know you’re not currently living in an intentional community, but can you just tell us a little bit about, about your community journey and how that’s showing up for you now?
Angela Franklin 6:02
Yeah. So um, I was thinking about this. I’m like, how many intentional communities have I lived in. And it really started coming from a more radical anarchist background, I guess, living in urban collective houses and doing lots of organizing work. And so that was my first intentional community. And that started in outside of St. Louis, and then moving back to the Portland area, and bringing people along with us. And then I, and my husband and our two kids. We decided that we wanted a shift. And so we found out about a intentional community in Southern Oregon, outside of Ashland families living in a TV community. And so we went and we started into that lifestyle. And so TV village was where we first landed in our, what was actually listed on the icy website. So so that was our experience. We lived there, just probably shy of two years. And so that was a community of multiple families of one elder at the time. And we had more children than we had adults in that community. And so we lived on the ground with the elements. And then when we left that community, then we traveled for a long, more in a converted school bus and played music around the country, and did lots of other things. And we landed outside of the Ashland area and another rural little valley in the Illinois Valley. And found an amazing community. And we’ve been for four years now, in I was having the discussion with my husband last night, actually. And he’s like, we live in an intentional community. And so and I’m like, Yeah, but I don’t feel like a lot of the people who currently live there feel like it’s an intentional community. So I’ll just give you a little bit of background. So we live in a place called Sun Star. And it was started as an intentional community in the mid 70s. So it’s been around for 50 years, and a bunch of hippies from Santa Barbara, actually decided that they wanted to come up into this area. And that have, you know, back to the land kind of movement, which is a lot of where our Southern Oregon intentional communities come from that have been around for a long time. And so, we have people who live there who were one of the original founders, but it’s grown from that really interdependent and communal feeling to more of, we all share land, we come together for quarterly meetings. We have a shared, you know, vision of how we want to live. We’re all off grid. And you know, we have three generations living on the land out here. So that’s kind of like it is an intentional community. But it’s it doesn’t feel like what it felt to live in teepee village where we took care of each other.
Rebecca Mesritz 10:36
And integrated. Yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s a different flavor. Yeah. Well, yeah, I’m curious to know, you know, as you’ve been a death, a death midwife, and in the home funeral world for a while, has that ever touched into any of the communities that you’ve lived in?
Angela Franklin 11:07
It has touched into the communities. And I’ve been a death midwife for about five years now practicing, you know, I was studying and really interested in things before that. But I had, we had a death in our community that kind of threw us into the for front. And it kind of dropped myself and my husband who also is a death midwife into that role. So up until that point, a lot of it was looking back and seeing how how this could have been utilized in those other settings. And then we can go into that more. Later on, I’m sure we will touch into that.
Rebecca Mesritz 12:06
So why is it important to think about death? In times when it doesn’t feel like, you know, when no one’s actively dying?
Angela Franklin 12:16
Well, we’re all actively dying. Right now, yeah. And I repair? Yeah. This is a question that I deal with a lot. And when we talk about death, you know, there’s two types of death, there’s expected death, and then there’s unexpected death. And often times, when we have unexpected deaths, those are the hardest ones to come to terms with, and to support each other. And, and so because of that, I feel like planning and getting these things worked out ahead of time is going to help us when we have that unexpected death, especially for young folks. And then also, we, it’s, it’s a practice, it’s almost like, you know, if we can integrate, preparing for death into our spiritual practices, then it can be healing, and it can be something that can make our spiritual work, have even more meaning. So.
Rebecca Mesritz 13:47
So when people are thinking about death, their own death or the death of their partner, you know, it just seems to me to be such a personal thing, like a personal I mean, obviously, this, but I’m thinking about it in the context of community and what it can look like when you, you know, share lives with with lots of people, you know, share lives with close friends, or people that have become like your family. And, you know, what, how does that what does that look like? Or what can that look like? Do you think?
Angela Franklin 14:26
So, there’s a couple of things there is, we have to have conversations with folks to be able to have our wishes be known. And once we are no longer physically here, then who’s going to carry out our wishes. So if you want anything in particular, you have to think about how is that going to happen? So figuring out who your Support System is and that usually is going to take more than one person. We have relied upon the funeral industry so much since the Civil War is really when the shift happened in the United States from when taking care of our own dead, was something that stayed within our communities and within our families. And because of the mass amount of deaths that happened in the Civil War, that’s when the embalming started to come back, because they needed to find ways to preserve the dead soldiers body so that they can return them to home. And so that’s when this industry kind of started popping up. And, you know, President Lincoln was one of the first people in bonds, that was known by a lot of people. And so they actually had a funeral procession, from where he died back to Illinois, where he was from, and people were able to see Lincoln’s embalmed body as they did this caravan back. So that kind of put into people’s minds of what someone should look like and what we should be doing for our family if we love them. And it became this more removed. So as we are now, especially an intentional communities, and people that are focused on bringing, bringing things back into what we can do for ourselves and for each other, and not rely upon the funeral industry, necessarily. It’s really important to have those conversations with our community and to figure that out. And when you have an intentional community that has deed to the land that you’re on, not every indigenous community has that, that deed there’s the possibility of creating the burial grounds, you know, at your area that you live in. So that’s going to take some figuring out. And then also, one of the things that I teach a lot when I do advanced care planning, which talks about advanced directives, and after death care directives, and having these conversations with our loved ones, and our community, is that we have to actually think about the legality. And when you are wanting someone who’s not necessarily your legal next of kin, to be the people who are making these decisions for you, when you’re no longer able to communicate, or to tend to your body after you die. It’s not possible, unless you’re illegal next of kin. And so when we think about the people who live in intentional communities, who may be live outside of the mainstream culture, sometimes we’re estranged from our family of origin. And so if you’re not married to your partner, if you have that estrangement from your family, then you really do need to figure out how to legally appoint your chosen family, as the people who will be making these decisions and being able to take care of your, your body after death. And a lot of states have documents that will help you be able to do this. And I teach this a lot around the LGBTQ community is where I first started supporting people in this way. And I found that common thread of Oh, yeah, this is also for us folks that live out in the woods. You know, we live in the woods because we want to or we have to, so yeah, that was long winded.
Rebecca Mesritz 19:45
No, that’s I mean, there’s so many threads that I want to that I want to follow and tease out. Um, yeah, I guess I want to kind of rewind back to this idea of not really Lying on the funeral industry. And, you know, if you’re someone who is sort of outside of the mainstream, and you’re trying to think about what your plan is, and how to how to actualize it, you know, do you recommend taking a class or having someone come to your community and teach about, because it feels like a lot of these things. I mean, not only is it taboo, but also because in a lot of ways to talk about death, it’s kind of dark, people don’t even really want to think about it. And then it seems like when you want to start looking for, like, what your options are, it’s the funeral industry. And that’s, that’s, it’s difficult to find other empowering resources. So how do you recommend communities or individuals just get empowered around? How to create their their wishes, how to ask people for, Hey, would you would you be in my death support system? If you don’t have like a defined, you know, partner or something like that? Like, how do you? How do you start to get that support to create a good death plan?
Angela Franklin 21:09
Yeah, I think the very first thing that you can do, we have an amazing resource, and it’s called the national home funeral Alliance. And I’m a member of it. It is a collection of folks all over the country. And we actually just put out a home funeral resource guidebook, and it is so thick and so amazing. And, and it’s available. So that is something that I would love people to do is to go and check out that website. And then there’s ways to connect with people in community chats, different workshops, and then also getting involved in different community connection events around death and dying, like finding your closest death cafe. There’s so many,
Rebecca Mesritz 22:16
what’s the death cafe,
Angela Franklin 22:18
the death cafe I actually won last night. So I’m a death Cafe is something that was started in the, in the UK. And it’s an international movement. And basically, it’s a group led discussion about everything surrounding death and dying. So there’s no you know, agenda, people just come together, often drinking tea and coffee and eating, you know, sweet treats, and just having a open discussion of whatever comes to mind. So it’s really kind of great stream of consciousness, sometimes, depending on who’s there is, can be a completely different experience from one death care cafe to another. There’s also death over dinners where people gather together for a dinner party, and there’s a set of questions. You know, they’re all related to death and dying. So creating that container, to have people feel a little bit more comfortable talking about these topics. And then there’s also different things like the Death deck, which is a death or a card deck that has, you know, multiple choice questions around death and dying, and then also some open questions. And so you can bring a group of people together, and everyone pull a card, and you answer that. And so what I find is that once people are given permission to talk about death, that often they won’t stop talking. And so, you know, we just, it’s taboo to talk about these things. So if you can create an environment where people feel safe to talk about it, and and oftentimes, you know, if someone isn’t feeling like they want to go into it, it’s because they maybe have some unprocessed grief or trauma around their death and dying experiences in their life. So even that itself in an intentional community, maybe is an opening to You know, support and attend to that grief that someone is experiencing. So I, I feel like it’s a it’s a great opening. And if we come at it as exploration, and as a little bit of an exciting thing that we can do for each other, then it’s not as dark. You know, when we have a loss? Well, I’ll give you an example of, you know, I talked about how we had a community member that died tragically. And it was, it was the worst day for a lot of people. And we had a 27 year old friend who was a musician in our little community, in Tacoma, Oregon. And she was Earth defender, and you know, the person that everyone felt like, she was one of their best friends. And so when she died, we just didn’t know like, what to do. It was beyond imaginable. She had such momentum in her life. And she created momentum within the community to like, do better, to stand up for things, you know, organizing skill shares, and just creating these amazing community connection events. And when her mother came, flew in, after she had died, you know, she wanted to cremate her. And luckily, we had had conversations, myself and my husband with her about death and dying. And these conversations that we had with her, we’re not, you know, dark, we both come from, you know, study plant medicine, and you know, love folklore and different things. So we would like talk about what are the things that we could possibly do? And how could we actually put our, our death to be useful for the things that we fought for in life. And so with her, we talked about doing conservation, burial grounds, and that’s where, you know, in different countries and different states, like, if you bury someone, then that area, sometimes it’s the whole acre, sometimes it’s a quarter acre around it, that’s forever protected, because now it’s a cemetery. And so, you know, she was like, Hey, I fought most of my adult life to stop, you know, clear cutting, and save Olga forests. So you know, what, I want to put my body out on the land that her and her partner, you know, had, and so that way, I know that that’s never going to be logged. And, you know, we talked about what we wanted to that we want to be, you know, an elder tree planted on us, so that we could, you know, become that spirit that lives in an elder tree that has been there before. Yeah. And so, you know, that was like, the conversations like, it doesn’t have to be like, well, if I died, you know, these are all of the, the things that I want people doing, like that’s really helpful, but not completely necessary, just having like those fun, like exploration conversations at first, and then, you know, maybe working together as a community to actually figure out, like, what do we need to create these spaces and, you know, fulfill someone’s wishes.
Rebecca Mesritz 29:44
That’s beautiful. That’s, and she was able to have that.
Angela Franklin 29:49
Yeah. And it was because of our conversations that we when her mother flew in her partner who was not married to her Because I didn’t believe in state, you know, marriage had absolutely no power. And so we really had to have the really hard conversations during a time in immense, like acute grief going on to like, you know, almost, you know, we had to convince her mother who was her legal next of kin, that she wanted to have a natural burial that she wanted to, you know, not be cremated that she wanted, we talked about, you know, doing a shroud and and that we needed to find a place that we were able to bury her. And it ended that we made a collective decision as a community that we would bury her at the, the, the farm and educational space out into Kilmer called spiral Living Center, where she did a lot of classes, and she helped really craft and create. And she studied permaculture. And so we felt that creating a community burial ground on that land was part of the permaculture model that not a lot of people think about. And so death and dying was something that needed to be included. So we had her there, and that, that planning, the conversations made it happen. And then also just the the communication between the her mom and her partner, and the rest of the community really working together, you know, to make it happen, because a lot of people didn’t know that you could have a home funeral, you could, you know, bury someone on private land. And it it changes depending on what state and what county you live in. But you can find out, you know, what the local regulations are. And the national home funeral alliance is one of the places that is a great starting point again.
Rebecca Mesritz 32:43
Awesome, so let’s, let’s dig into this a little more. Because I, for people who don’t know about what a home funeral is, for, if someone’s never heard, how would you describe a home funeral.
Angela Franklin 32:58
Home funeral is a a memorial or a week, or of visitation, any kind of activity after the moment of death, where it is family and community lead, family or community lead. And so basically in home funeral could be done completely without assistance from a funeral home. Or it could be done in conjunction with a funeral home, or some funeral homes, if asked might actually do a lot of the work, but just the location is at someone’s house, or in a community space. But a lot of times when I talk about home funerals, it’s more of that community lead so understanding how to you know, keep a body in a way that is up to regulations, so that’s a different thing. So it depending on your state in your, your county and the cemetery and mortuary regulations that are taking place. You have to refrigerate you know, a body after a certain amount of time. And that refrigeration can look like dry ice or techni ice, which is a little bit less of an ordeal to you know to handle. So it’s not it’s not complicated and In some states, you do have to include a funeral director, and sometimes that’s just oversight. So they actually aren’t doing anything, they’re just like being told what’s happening, and they just kind of have to oversee the family, you know, taking care of things. But most states, you can do it all yourself. And so there’s, there’s a lot of possibility in a home funeral to where it can be this really long you know, organized thing that has so many different, you know, things of, well, we’re going to have, we’re going to have three days of a person being laid out in honor, you know, shrouded, or in a casket, and people can come and, you know, visit and say their goodbyes and have time to process. And then that person then gets picked up by a funeral home and taken and whatever you want to do cremation or burial or whatnot. At that time, if it’s a home funeral, then that body would then be buried wherever the private, you know, burial spaces at. Or, by another thing that I do that is it is a home funeral, but I call it a fairly well ceremony. So not everyone has the capacity, or the privilege to be able to do a home funeral. But there is a space of time between the point of death and maybe the couple of hours before a funeral home comes to retrieve a body. So even if you don’t have the ability to really do a larger home funeral, you can still do some activities together after the moment of death. And so in that can look like you know, washing a body doing a blessing, just having that intentional space that has some sort of ceremonial component to it, so that we can start engaging with what just happened.
Daniel Greenberg 37:50
Hey, everyone, my name is Daniel Greenberg. And I’m so excited to join the fic as co director. Every year close to half a million people visit ic.org seeking community through our free online directory, as well as our bookstore programs, forums, and other valuable resources. That’s truly amazing, and makes us and hopefully you very happy. And we’re still a nonprofit, and we need your support. With the decline of course registrations in the post COVID economy, we’re now in the position of needing to raise $45,000 to make it through 2023. The good news is we’re poised to take a quantum leap in our engagement with our networks and the world. Imagine a North American communities council meeting at regional and international gatherings. Imagine expanded networks and groups and more resources, courses and events to bring a greater sense of community and belonging to millions. It’s all possible. But to get from here to there, we need your financial help today to support our small, dedicated team that works tirelessly behind the scenes to make it all happen. The threat of closing our virtual doors after 36 years is real. Please good ic.org/donate today and give what you can to ensure our online directory will remain free and updated. And so we can continue offering unique and helpful resources to everyone who envisions a more just resilient and cooperative world. That’s icx.org/donate In case you missed it, please contribute today. Thank you.
Rebecca Mesritz 39:32
Catus is not your everyday architecture firm. Their interest and regenerative and community supported design has cultivated an expertise in intentional and cohousing communities with the focus on rich and healthy human experiences. Design Excellence and pragmatism are at the core of their work, as is an ethic of service to the client and natural or urban environments. Qantas is a leader in sustainable design, zero energy home On Passive House and delightful neighborhoods, they are experts in grassroots community engagement, and apply attention, sophisticated design and creative solutions to every project. If it’s worth building, it’s worth building it well find caddis on Facebook and Instagram, and it Catus pc.com. That’s CADDIS pc.com It’s so hard to imagine, you know, it’s hard to like put yourself when you’re not in the state of grief that you would, of course be in at the loss of a loved one. Which is what how I can imagine that the home funeral industry has become what it is, is because people are like, in a state of grief and just not knowing and they’re just like, okay, somebody else deal with this, I can’t even deal with my emotions right now. But then I also see this other side of it, that’s like, the beauty of, you know, engaging with the body of your loved one and tending to them and caring for them is actually what could enable you to be able to process their passing in a different way. So, all that to say, you know, how, how do you were, you know, is this the kind of thing that would come up at a death cafe, like learning about some of these things so that you’re not trying to learn a new skill? Like how do you wash a dead body? In the middle of also being grief stricken? And, you know, in a deep process?
Angela Franklin 41:42
Yeah, I think that if you if you want to have a home funeral, that it is good to reach out and find who in your community would be able to help out with that. And if there are home funeral guides, that is a great resource. And I think that end of life, doulas, or death, midwives, death, doulas. There’s lots of different names that you know kind of talk about the same role. Finding your local death doula will maybe be able to connect you to home funeral resources, because it’s not that every end of life doula is a home funeral guide. But oftentimes, those trainings that we go through will touch upon home funerals. And because end of life, doulas are working to support families you know, in non medical ways, and often oftentimes doing after death care is touched upon. But like I said, not every death doula feels comfortable doing any of the after death care, you know, type things. So
Rebecca Mesritz 43:20
So what does a death what does a death doula do? Or a death midwife?
Angela Franklin 43:26
Yes, so a death doula death midwife. What they do is provide the non medical support to an individual, a family or a community when someone is, is dying. And so I, I call myself a death midwife because I was trained through sacred crossings in the art of death Midwifery, and that’s through Olivia barium down in LA. And so that was the term that was being used because we were trained to start supporting people before a diagnosis was even there. So we were just working with people with death, anxiety, all the way through a diagnosis through end of life, and then after death, and then we also were trained on home funerals and being celebrant life celebrants and so because of that, we use the term death midwife, because it was such a broad spectrum of things that we did. So, in that sense, the possibilities of what Deaf midwife or end of life doula could do is anywhere from a bedside presence. to educating the individual or the family on what to expect when someone is dying, of what act of dying looks like giving spiritual support, doing advanced care planning. So helping people fill out or understand what an Advanced Directive is, what a pulsed is, which is the portable orders for life sustaining treatment. You know, and also use kind of, as the DNR Do Not Resuscitate. Being a liaison between the family and the person and the hospice care team. And like really identifying the gaps and addressing those, and then organizing the community and the friends to help support the family or the caregivers. Because hospice doesn’t provide 24/7 caregiving, they provide 24/7 support, but not an actual physical presence to be there. And then also, I’m trying to think there’s, there’s so much it’s kind of like a wheel stroke, you know, where you have like the end of life doula and you have like these, like 20 different things that we could possibly do for someone. And some end of life, doulas only feel comfortable. Or they feel passionate about a handful of them. You know, so you really do have to talk with an end of life doula and ask them? Like, what? What are the things that you are? What are your services that you offer, and see if they are a good fit with what your needs are?
Rebecca Mesritz 47:00
Yeah, I could, I could see a real benefit to a community or, you know, cooperative group collaborative group being to start to host these conversations, and start getting some ideas about like, what your values are, what kind of I mean, even if everybody doesn’t have the same ideas about what they want, how they want their body handled, or what they want their services to look like, just sort of identifying on a broader level, like having the conversation starting to make the wishes known. And then sort of, as you said, engaging with people, service providers, and, and having some of that relationship up front. So that again, in the time of need, you’re not all of a sudden trying to like interview people for for services when you’re dealing with someone who’s critically ill or is even already passed. Yeah, that’s beautiful, what what other what kinds of things do you think, you know, when they’re create when people are creating a plan? What are some of the basic things I mean, you’ve talked about who you’re who your support system, what your team looks like, you’ve talked about wishes for your for your body, whether you want to be buried or cremated, or a mushroom bag, or whatever those things might be, what are some other things that people may or may not have considered about what they would want in their end of life plan?
Angela Franklin 48:32
I think that the first thing that we need to do is to really have some personal exploration into what our experiences have been around death and dying, and to go through maybe, you know, like a life review, but instead a death review. And so to really spend time thinking about you know, what was the very first death that you ever experienced? What did you learn from that death? Was there anything that you were not stoked on? Was there anything that you really thought was beautiful? And to understand as much as possible, what exactly you would want people to experience after you died, and and how we can help create that experience before we die. So and that looks like you know What type of container would you want your body to be in? You know? So do you want a shroud? Do you want a casket? Do you want? You know, like you said to be cremated or buried, or, you know, I live in Oregon, you live in Oregon now, but you lived in California before? You know, what are the what are the things that are possible? Colorado is a state that I mean, like anything is possible in Colorado, it’s kind of insane how many different options there are for a person’s body, anywhere from an open funeral pyre to donating your body to a educational research facility where you tell them what scenario you would like your body to be left in. And then they document and research and it’s for forensic, you know, purposes, that they will do these different things. But in Oregon, you know, we have natural reduction, which is the human composting, we have occupation and
Rebecca Mesritz 51:26
acclimation. Is that like burial at sea, or what is that? Oh, so
Angela Franklin 51:30
we do have full body burials at sea as well. All cremation is something that there is a vessel that your body goes into, and there is more water in lye and a little bit of agitation. And it actually breaks down the body. And so this is a process that has, you know, we talked about cremains. So there is something where they will the bones are left, and so they pulverize the bones. So you can get that those remains just like cremains with the ashes back to be able to spread. And this is a process that a lot of our animal shelters and veterinarians utilize for animal bodies. But it’s also something that is offered for humans as well. And so that is a possibility. And yeah, so just like an figuring out what is all possible and then deciding what you feel most aligned with. And I talk a lot about death, sovereignty, and death, literacy and death readiness. And these are all things that as a community, we can kind of work on together to figure out like, what is our knowledge of these topics? And to, you know, ask the questions, and see, yeah, what I would just yeah, come together around a horse around, you know, whatever thing and just start introducing these ideas. Because it’s going to take a lot of planning. And yeah.
Rebecca Mesritz 53:52
So, you know, you talked about something earlier about sort of all of the different trainings that you received, becoming a death midwife. And a topic of great interest of mine is is rites of passage. And the real opportunity, if folks choose to take an empowered stance around their, around their death, to treat this final, right as a Yeah, real moment of, I mean, I guess you’re not really coming into yourself, you’re sort of exiting yourself at that point, but like, what the possibility of death as a rite of passage can be. And I’m curious about what your thoughts might be on that and yeah, what what people might be able to sort of look forward to in in their own dying experience.
Angela Franklin 54:58
Yeah, I think death is, you know, definitely a rite of passage, you know, just like being birthed you it’s not a it’s not something that just happens like there, there is a labor to it, you your body is working on it. And I think that hurt I mean, I don’t know what happens at death. I don’t know what happens after death It is the greatest mystery, but no one, you know, can really answer for us. And I think that that is the, the ultimate the ultimate thing that we can work towards is being okay. And honoring the mystery. And so one of the things that Olivia Baron, you know, teaches in her, some of her classes is like surrender, that often times when people think about death and dying, and there’s the fear, and there’s a lot of unresolved things like you’re contracting. And, and one of the things is like, when you’re contracting and your you know, tense, then things are going to be more painful and things are going to be, there’s going to be more suffering, you know, that happens. But if you can relax and just surrender to whatever happens is what’s going to happen, that that’s when there’s this opening. And it can be really beautiful, no matter what your death is, whether it is, you know, the the good death that we all talk about. I don’t know if any, if death is just death, you know, we can do as much as we can to like prepare and to reduce suffering as much as possible. But I think in the end, every death is just death. And so the rite of passage, I mean, I’m thinking of like, as an individual, and then as a collective, like, it’s going to be a different experience. So pretty much what I was just talking about is the individual. But collectively, there is so much healing that can happen when you take part in someone’s rite of passage. And, you know, I’ve taken part in when, you know, people who bleed when they’re sick cycle starts, and when we come together as other people who bleed monthly or on cycles. And so we come together and support that person. That is beautiful, because that’s not something that everyone does. And when I’ve participated in those, like there’s a part of me that heals because of what I wasn’t provided at that time. And there’s a piece of my own grief that gets brought up and processed. And so again, when we’re talking about death, and being with someone during that time, again, we are able to, you know, support them and create that container for their death to happen with as little suffering as possible. But also, we death as our greatest teacher so we’re able to learn and heal little things within side of us also. So I think that that is really important part of the, you know, the death rights and creating ceremony, because we are lacking ceremony in so many of our transitions in life, that other cultures have really uplifted, and and so if we can create ceremony that helps us process what is going on, then we will be able to have a little bit better relationship for others and ourself, you know, when our time comes, or if we’re called to, you know, be with other people during their death and dying.
Rebecca Mesritz 1:00:43
Can you share, you know, when you talk about that ceremony, I mean, especially for people who, like, so many these days are operating outside of a religious framework that kind of created that for us, you know, you, you died, you have a mass, you know, the body gets taken, it’s an, you know, put into the ground, then you go to the weak. And that’s sort of like, you know, what to expect, by the time hopefully, you know, you make it to old age and, and your partner or someone is dying in an ideal in an ideal world. But now, we don’t have that religious framework, and I’m curious to know, what you’ve seen as a possibility for, for beautiful ceremony that feels, you know, meaningful and authentic and yeah, like, what can that look like for people?
Angela Franklin 1:01:43
Yeah. Well, I want to first touch upon, you know, that idea that we’re less religious of, I guess, the younger generation, it seems like we’re less religious. And, and that, that does affect our, our knowledge in our response to death and dying, definitely, you know, I was raised in the high faith. And from a very young age, I knew that I had very specific things that I was going to take part in. So that I knew that any of the women in our community that died, once I was sort of certain age, I would probably help them with the shrouding with the washing, there are specific, you know, prayers, and very specific death rates. And I always had comfort in that, because I knew that that’s what was going to happen. And when I have conversations with friends of mine, that are funeral directors, and that have been doing this work for, you know, a certain amount of time, or they did work, you know, back back in the Midwest versus the West Coast, they also comment on this also is that there is a people are more almost lost in what they need to do, or what they should do, because they’re not having these religious guidelines that tell us, you know, like, this is how it goes. And so what I think we can do is create our own, you know, ceremony and ritual, and to be careful about, you know, cultural appropriation because that’s something I, I see a lot when people don’t have their own, you know, religious or spiritual practice, and they are kind of like picking and choosing from different ones. I think what is important is to think about why is this a part of a ceremony and to really think about like, what is the symbolic thing that is trying to pull forth from us and then to create something that is not copying and, you know, being culturally appropriate of a But to really figure out how we could do this in a way that is honoring, you know, the person and the community. And so that can look like you know, just, yeah. It’s a, it’s a little bit of a complicated thing, because it takes some time to not just, you know, say like, ooh, that’s really awesome. I’m gonna do that, too. And I’m gonna use the exact words. And, you know, so
Rebecca Mesritz 1:05:43
Well, is there something from your own death plan that you feel like you could share? Like something that feels like it hits the mark for this specific need of a of a ritual? But it’s not derivative or appropriative? But is you have reflects your, your value?
Angela Franklin 1:06:02
Yeah. So one of the things that I developed, and it’s so meaningful to me now, because it’s something that like, it came out of lots of different areas of my life. So I have been a natural Dyer, like fabric dyer for a long time. And I, and I love folklore and plant lore. So and I also studied, you know, kinda like traditional. I want to say magic, but I guess that’s yeah, I don’t know.
Rebecca Mesritz 1:06:48
Exactly. Like magic. A magic. I like that word.
Angela Franklin 1:06:51
Yeah, so like traditional magical practices, which is really just, you know, doing things with intention. And understanding that there’s relationships and connections that can be kind of acknowledged. And there’s a, there’s a benefit to acknowledging those connections and those relationships, even when we can’t maybe physically see a person. But yeah, I would say I’m an animist more than anything. So there’s a, there’s a presence to most everything in our lives. And so, because I did natural dyeing, I love plant lore, I love doing things with intention. I started with my friend who, who died I was talking about before, I wanted to naturally dye her shroud. And a friend of mine said, Hey, you do this style eco printing, where you take like a leaf or a flower, and you place it on the fabric. And then you roll it up, and then you put it in a dye bath, or you steam it. And when you unroll it, it’s the actual pigment from that shape, or that leaf or flower sticks to the fabric. And so it’s really beautiful. But as an artist, I’m like, only certain plants, you know, give images only, you know, we have to be really intentional, because I’m thinking of like, as a natural entire. I’m like, we have to think about this. And my friend was like, well, you also practice like magic stuff. Don’t you think that you could just whatever intention a person has through that plant or that leave wood? And I’m like, wow, you just pulled me. And I did. So I was like, Oh, well, we could do a whole ceremony where we intentionally imbue fabric, a shroud with different plants. And so what I created this ceremony, and I’ve done it with a whole community coming together and dying and imbuing a funeral shroud together. And sometimes the plants leave, you know, prints sometimes they don’t. But because it was, you know, steamed into it, you know, you know that that it was imbued with whatever intention that person put down and creating the ceremony around that. And using that as a shroud. And then I’ve also had the opportunity to do this with someone before they died and to choose people that were important in their lives to come together. And we created her shroud with her present. And she wasn’t physically able to participate, but she was there in the room, you know, we set up different altars for the different directions, we called in her ancestors and the different, you know, spirits to be present and guide us. And we, yeah, created this beautiful shroud that she got to see, you know, like, four days before she died, knowing what was going to be surrounding her. And so, yeah, and so that was beautiful. And then also, the washing and blessing ceremony has been so beautiful, because it’s something that even people who are like, really freaked out about the idea. They, they’re able to do this. And I’ve had people that before the death, I kind of go over with them, like, Okay, this is what your mom or your husband kind of said that they weren’t. So let’s talk about what it’s going to look like after this person, you know, dies, and we’re gonna do a washing, it doesn’t have to be like a really like, you know, it’s sometimes it’s more symbolic than actually cleaning someone. And so, you know, we choose what essential oils we want to use, if any at all. And we have a bowl of you know, warm, scented water, maybe a little bit of Dr. Bronner’s in it. And we write a blessing. And so this is something that I think I’ve done with every, almost every single person that I’ve supported in a home funeral. And so we talk about, you know, starting at the head, like, we want to think the person, their, you know, their head, the source of their dreams, and an intellect and memory, and then you, you know, kind of comb the hair and wash the face. And we talked about the eyes in the mouth, that brought, you know, speech and loving words, and we work down the body to the hands, which held us in, you know, so you were acknowledging, and doing a blessing for every part of the body, and relating it to what that person did in life, what they gave us what they’re leaving behind. And so that ceremony, you know, serves practically, to, you know, maybe wash away some of the stuff that kind of collects during someone’s last dying days. And to tend to them, and it’s a very loving act to be able to do that for someone. And you can do that in a hospital. You can do that at home, you can do that. So anywhere someone dies, like you can do that act. And then yeah, so those are the two main things. Oh, and so my, to come back around. So I’ve had these family members who were like, super freaked out, and they’re like, I don’t know if I can be able to do this. I know that they want me to do this, but I don’t know. And so a lot of times, what I’ll say is, well, you know, I’m here, if you can’t do it, you know, like, I’ll step in, you know, and help you out. But, but they really want you to do it. So you just give it a shot. And I’ve had people who were so scared, just step forward, and they they’re a different person after they’ve experienced this. And I’ve had people that were
Angela Franklin 1:14:33
that had been traumatized by death in the past, and had this like experience in this thought of like, how broken and horrible it was going to be. And they questioned like, Why do I not feel so destroyed? And they’re like, I think it’s because I took part in these things after they died. Like it helps. It gives your body something to do to process the grief. And we like it transmutes the grief into whatever, you know. And so even, you know, the folks that are like, this was the worst and best day of my life, the worst day to like, wash my daughter’s body. But also the best day because I was able to wash my daughter’s body.
Angela Franklin 1:15:43
Yeah, I don’t know, it’s just like, it’s such a beautiful opportunity that we gave away. And we didn’t have a choice of giving it away. Us. It really was, you know, our grandparents, you know, in great grandparents generation where it was a cultural shift. And
Angela Franklin 1:16:15
and I think that there’s a lot of people who are understanding the benefit of bringing it back into our, into our lives. Yeah, yeah. Reclaiming. And remembering.
Rebecca Mesritz 1:16:32
Yeah, I mean, it’s, I’ll say, since studying virtual in grad school, I really went down a rabbit hole. And that and started to learn about home funerals and what the possibilities were, and I knew, like, in my bones, from that moment, that that was, at least for my, for my, for my own death, and for my body, and what I would hope to be able to offer to my closest loved ones, my husband, or, you know, whoever else might call that that was something that I would hope to be able to offer to them as well. And, yeah, just bringing that home, you know, I love I love what you were saying earlier about your friend, and just the idea of permaculture and how, you know that. You know, death is a part of the cycle. And we’ve, as a culture, we try, we’ve tried for many centuries, to take the low the base things out of our life, the trash goes somewhere else, the death and dying goes somewhere else, like, all of those things that are associated with decay and the end, become separated from our experience. And there’s just such a beauty to reintegrating them so that we can honor that process as actually life giving. You know, and that without those closures, we don’t get to have the new openings. So it’s such a such a beautiful work you get to do in the world. Um, I would like to talk a little bit before we wrap up about about grief and grief rituals. And, you know, after the after someone has passed how communities how people can begin to relate to their own mourning process. And I know sometimes grief rituals happen for people who have died years ago who were not properly mourned. But I’m curious to know what your thoughts are, on on grief and how communities can be with their grief in a way that feels constructive, if that’s even possible. Healing hopefully.
Angela Franklin 1:19:10
Yeah. Grief is something that we have never been taught how to do. Because grief is
Angela Franklin 1:19:23
something that you have to It’s an expression, it’s an action. And it’s something that is there’s a sacredness to it. And, you know, Grief is a measure of how much we have loved something. Like if you don’t love something, if it if you don’t feel it as a loss, then you’re not going to grieve it.
Angela Franklin 1:19:59
So That’s the that’s the hard thing. And that’s the promise that you kind of have to make to yourself, when you choose to love something is that it’s, it’s, it’s going to come to an end, like every relationship that we have, in some way, is going to come to an end. And so
Angela Franklin 1:20:35
we don’t understand what grief is and how to support each other because we are a culture of fixers. And grief is not something to be fixed. Grief is something that needs to be experienced, so that we can process what our new relationship is with that thing that we lost. And so really, being able to be compassionate with someone is really important. And to understand that the best thing that you can do when someone is grieving is to validate what they’re feeling, no, there’s no right or wrong way to grieve. And we have this idea of, you know, the stages of grief, Kubler Ross, and that, you know, you have the first stage, second stage, third stage, and then there’s, you know, you know, up to seven to nine different stages that people have identified. And we feel like, oh, so this is what you’re supposed to do this first, this next and that, and it’s not true. You know, when you think about grief, you can visit different stages at different times, at the same time, you can go back to one, you can skip ones, like everything is possible when someone grieves, it is a chaotic mess. You know, it can be, and so to understand that, we have to feel our feelings, because when we don’t feel our feelings, if we’re not allowed to feel our feelings, then that’s when we get stuck. And so really just listening to the people, and what they’re feeling what they’re experiencing, not trying to fix it, but just acknowledging that that’s what the person’s going through. And grief is not an illness, grief is not a something that we can avoid. Because when we avoid our grief, that’s when it becomes trauma. And that’s when it starts affecting other parts of our life and our relationships with people. So when we, other cultures have had, have seen this, you know, and so have created these grief rituals, that we take part collectively, because it really takes being witnessed by someone else, for the grief to be able to move, you know, with our grief, it’s not really something that happens on our own. And so when we can come together as a community, then we can create these containers. I know, it’s such a catchphrase or you know the word but really, it is it’s like, creating the situation where people feel safe to fall apart. And that’s totally okay. So grief rituals, typically, you know, acknowledge what the losses give space for people to speak, whatever loss and when we talk about grief and loss, it’s more than just a physical death. We have so many other deaths throughout our entire lives, and we don’t acknowledge them. And that’s what the rites of passage coming back to that. So rites of passage are acknowledging the transitions in our life and And, you know, there’s some really big ones, you know, so like, when we like I said, when we when people start bleeding when people get, you know, married or have children, or you know, when someone hires, you know, like those are all, you know, different transitions, but then also things like, changes in our roles and our identity, you know, that can be a transition that has loss attached to it that we need to acknowledge, and just process, what that that is. And so not to fix, not to get over it. But just to reconcile of that reconciliation is kind of the goal. And some really great people that go into this. I mean, Francis Weller the wild, I just sorrow is a book that he wrote, and he talks about, you know, community grief rituals, and coming together as the village and holding space for each other. I’ve learned a lot, and I found his writings have been really beneficial for people that I’ve supported. And for myself. You know, Amy Wright Glynn, with the birth death and breath Institute is another person who talks about her book is actually called Holding space. And, you know, talks about how we can show up for people around death and dying and grief. And there’s so many more, I mean, this, I feel like COVID gave us the opening, to talk more about our mental health and our support systems. And you know, so I feel like that, and use of online platforms like this, where we can connect with each other, and people were so starved for interaction and starved for like learning things, because they had nothing else to do. So. Yeah, so I feel like there’s a lot of stuff out there when it comes to grief literacy, and how we can show up for each other around grief. Because we all collectively experienced massive grief throughout the pandemic. And there’s a lot that we can learn. And a lot of people offering things right now.
Rebecca Mesritz 1:28:13
I feel like we’ve covered so much ground here. It’s been really, really good. Do you have any final things you want to throw in for people to take with them as they start to think about this? Sort of deep, very personal
Angela Franklin 1:28:30
subject? Yeah, I think just, you know, meditating, and really exploring what you want your death to look like, and what gift you can give to those who love you after you die. Because it’s a gift to create the space for them to mourn and grieve your death. But it’s also a gift to do the pre planning that needs to happen. Because you then are creating less of a burden on someone when they are deep in their grief. And so, the more that we can do ahead of time, the less the people that are still around, you know have to do and there is a lot of beauty in letting people know you know what’s ONGs you would like to, you know, be played or asking people in your life to, you know, seeing a certain song, or everyone sing a song together, you know, talking about what what other elements of ceremony you would want would be good. And then also, if you don’t want anything, that’s completely fine. What can be traumatic for people is not necessarily not having ceremony not wanting people to be around, you know, while you have your last breath, the trauma that can happen coming out of that is not letting people know why you chose those things. I just said that death left cafe last night, there was a person who came because he wasn’t offered anything after his grandfather died. His grandfather didn’t want anyone there when he took his last breath. And there was no conversations to understand why. And now this individual is going to take quite some time to understand and just be to be I want to say to be okay, but that’s kind of what’s coming to my mind, but to, to just process what that means to him. You know. And at the same time, this is death being our teacher. Because even when things happen in a death that we do not like, we don’t understand, we want it to be different. What we take away from that experience, is going to inform what we do in our death. And so I would just love for people to practice and work on their dying before they’re actually actively dying. And yeah, because thinking about it is not inviting it in. I think that that’s one of the things that people, you know, are scared of is like, well, if I talk about it, then is that me manifesting it? And I, you know, like when you talk about, like, you know, having sex is, are you gonna get pregnant?
Rebecca Mesritz 1:33:12
I’ve talked about winning the lottery a bunch of times, but I still have not won.
Angela Franklin 1:33:17
Yeah. So that the more we can normalize it, the more we can prepare for it. And support others than the more we’re gonna. It’s going to be healing. It could be healing, you know?
Rebecca Mesritz 1:33:42
Yeah. Beautiful, beautiful. Thank you so much, Angela Franklin. This has been really just such a heart warming and opening conversation. So I just appreciate all your work in this field and for sharing your wisdom with us today. Yeah,
Angela Franklin 1:33:58
thank you for having me. It was really amazing.
Rebecca Mesritz 1:34:05
Thank you so much for joining me for this conversation with Angela Franklin. I hope that you were able to take some of these words back to your community and your family and your world. And use them to create some meaningful, potent and practical plans for what your final days and death care might look like. Angela mentioned a lot of amazing resources, which I’m going to be linking to in the show notes. But I wanted to also mention that I reached out to the death deck. And for my podcast listeners, they are offering a 20% off coupon on their decks, which I highly recommend checking out they’re super cool. I’m gonna have a link to that in the show notes. But if you want to just go there, you can use code inside 20 and get yours now. I’m also going to be linking to Angela’s different projects that she’s got going on. And if you’re someone who lives in Northern California or Southern Oregon, she offers a lot of different courses. cafe’s, intensives. And of course, her services in this region. In addition to the support from my sponsors, it’s really you guys who make this podcast possible. So if you’ve gotten something out of this show, I would love your help in promoting it, getting it out there in the world. You can rate and review on Apple podcasts, you can share it with your friends. And of course, we would love your donations to help keep the show going. You can give now at ic.org/podcast I just love hearing from you guys. A lot of you reach out to me through Instagram at inside community Podcast. I’m also on Facebook. So if you have any questions on the show or the topics we discussed, please reach out to me there I would love to hear from you. And hear more about how I can support you on your beautiful and messy journey to living inside community. Thanks so much for being here and I’ll see you next time.
Dave Booda 1:36:01
Who left the dishes in the shared kitchen sink. Who helps Johnny when is too much to drink? How do we find a way for everyone to agree that since Can you it’s a podcast y’all
Listen & Subscribe
- New Visions for the Communities Movement with Daniel Greenberg
- Cults! The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly with Jesse Stone
- Community Held Death and Dying with Angela Franklin
- Central Leader Communities with “Evil Dictator” Paul Wheaton
- Intimacy in Community with Dave Booda
- Aging Well Together with Margaret Critchlow
- Raising Children in Community with Amy Saloner
- Reclaiming Placemaking for Liberation with Ridhi D’Cruz
- Designing Shared Spaces with Bryan Bowen
About the Show
The Inside Community Podcast brings folks along for an inside look at all of the beautiful and messy realities of creating and sustaining a community. We provide useful and inspiring content to support people on their quest for resilience, sustainability, and connection.
Meet Your Host
Inside Community Podcast host Rebecca Mesritz is a community builder living in Williams, Oregon. In 2011, Rebecca co-founded the Emerald Village (EVO) in North County San Diego, California. During her ten years with EVO, she supported and led numerous programs and initiatives including implementation and training of the community in Sociocracy, establishment of the Animal Husbandry program, leadership of the Land Circle, hosting numerous internal and external community events, and participation in the Human Relations Circle which holds the relational, spiritual and emotional container for their work.
In June of 2021, with the blessing of EVO, Rebecca and 3 other co-founders relocated to begin a new, mission- driven community and learning center housed on 160 acres of forest and farmland. Rebecca is passionate about communal living and sees intentional community as a tool for both personal and cultural transformation. In addition to her work in this field, she also holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from San Diego State University and creates functional, public, and interactive art in metal, wood, and pretty much any other material she can get her hands on. She is a mother, a wife, an educator, a nurturer of gardens, an epicurean lover of sustainable wholesome food, and a cultivator of compassion and beauty.
The Inside Community Podcast is sponsored by the Foundation for Intentional Community (FIC). Reach out if you are interested in sponsorship or advertisement opportunities on the podcast.