“It is when we are confronted with poignant reminders of mortality that we become most aware of the strangeness and wonder of our brief life on Earth.” — Kathleen Basford

Why Talk About Dying?

A Growing Social Movement . . .

A Vashon Conversation for the Living about Dying is part of a growing social movement to reflect on death and dying, by providing space and opportunities to consider end-of-life issues as individuals and as a community.  It is supported by mounting evidence and propelled by personal conviction. The central idea of this movement is quite simple: serious illness and death are best understood as a natural part of life, and we are better off as a culture if we act as if this were true.

We Can’t Deny It . . .

Death is the ultimate equalizer – we will all experience it; no one is immune. Providing opportunities to engage in this profound topic cannot help but bring us together. This isn’t casual talk about the weather, politics or dinner. It gets to the core of who we are, what we value, what we want our legacy to be. It offers a space of trust where we can speak and listen to one another.

Our culture has created a negative label for death. We each have strong images and words in our minds associated with death. We are taught to look the other way, not talk about it and to conceal our emotions surrounding death. Yet death is inevitable.

Our Track Record . . .

Driven by a small, passionate volunteer team, the Vashon Conversation Project has hosted a variety of free community-wide events. In March 2017, hundreds of Vashon residents participated in a four day event, including workshops, music, art, and "Death Over Dinner." In February of 2018, guest speakers addressed the topic of Palliative Care from a variety of perspectives, including alternative and complimentary therapies for pain and stress management. Other offerings have included book and poetry discussions, pet companion grief support groups, and advance care planning sessions.

Comments from Participants

I have heard wonderful things about the Death Conversation weekend. Large attendance and meaningful conversations. Congratulations on a successful event and getting the community together in a meaningful, collaborative way.
Just wanted to send a quick “Shout Out.” It was a great weekend. Thanks for putting your hearts and souls into it.
What a hugely successful weekend! You not only provided gobs of information for our entire community, it felt to me like you forged new, more intimate bonds among us all. That is a gift that’s hard to match.
A beautiful path to be walked again and again. It would seem the journey has just begun.

The Ultimate Goal:  Making Wise End-of-Life Choices . . .

There are so many choices we can make about our dying process – where we want to be, how we want to be cared for in our final days, and who will speak on our behalf if we aren’t able to speak for ourselves. The goal of A Vashon Conversation is to raise consciousness about mortality and to help residents initiate conversations about end-of-life wishes with family and friends. The goal is to reach a “tipping point” – motivating the majority of Island residents to take action – to do advance care planning and complete advance directives. Making these value-led decisions and having conversations with our loved ones can change the quality of our living, and our dying. It is said that a good death is an informed conscious death. Our goal is to continue to provide information, connection and resources to help you consider your choices around both your living and your dying.

Advance Care Planning on Vashon . . . 

Honoring Choices Vashon provides information and tools to discuss end-of-life wishes with family, friends and healthcare providers, and to create advance care directives. The vision is for Vashon to be a community where death is understood as a natural part of life, where loved ones do not face confusion and conflict when crucial decisions have to be made, and where residents' wishes for their care are known, respected and honored. The service is free and available to all.

For further information and assistance in starting this conversation, contact Jane Neubauer at janeonvashon@comcast.net or by phone at (206)567-5404, or Carol Spangler at: ckspang@centurytel.net or by phone at (206)567-5302.

Ninety Percent of Americans say it's important to discuss their wishes for end of life care, yet only 30 percent actually do so. We want Vashon to be the community where we ALL engage in these important conversations, and complete our advance care directives.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world.
Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
— Margaret Mead


The energetic, committed team that has crafted
A Vashon Conversation for the Living about Dying –

Barb Huffman is an on-Island friend, forest walker, and bird lover. She is an off-Island grandmother and clinical social worker who believes that death and dying is part of the narrative of Every Life.

Berneta Walraven and her partner, Sheila, have lived on Vashon for 19 years. They moved here from Boston, wanting to escape snow and find a more manageable work/life balance. Having spent most of her career as a lawyer working on civil rights issues, she now works for King County, spends time at the Puget Sound Zen Center and volunteers with Honoring Choices Vashon, a group that strives to make death awareness more a part of everyday life. Berneta really likes bingo, thinks pit bulls get a bad rap, and believes in ghosts.

Carol Spangler and her husband Bob are East coast transplants; uprooted by grandchildren after 35 years in Maryland. A thread that has woven itself around the past eleven years is an unfolding query around death and dying. Gardening, biking, providing hospitality are avocations. Engaging in rich conversations around this question is her passion:  “How shall we live, knowing we are going to die?” She is a Hospice volunteer and an Honoring Choices Vashon facilitator. Turns out Carol has become a Death Junky!

Jeri Jo Carstairs has worn many hats. She always wears a “Grandma” and “Mom” hat. In the early 70’s she wore the ‘Creative Preschool Teacher” hat; then for several years, the “Minglement  Owner” hat. Since the early 80s she has worn an “Island Therapist” and a “Hospice Volunteer” hat.  You might notice other well-worn hats:  “Poetry Lover”, “Sumi  Artist”, “Occasional Skier” , “Enthusiastic Hiker”, or “Just Walking in the Woods with Friends.” One of her favorite hats is “I Love Vashon Island.”

Sally Carlson is an Island dweller and mainland community activist; advocate of “other”; Episcopal clergy; gardener, cook, Mom, and 2nd Mom to large extended family.

Susan Pitiger is a Mom, Grandmother, nurse who has midwifed several family members and several friends into their death, a sacred moment.

Vicki Boyd, is an on-Island ardent supporter and board member of Vashon Community Care. She is a frequent visitor to many Island community meetings and loves the many benefits that living on Vashon brings to her and her family. Over town she is a clinical psychologist and has a private practice on Lake Union. She is also a Jobs Corps consultant, a federal program serving disadvantaged youth. Most of her clients call her doctor!