End of Life Preparation Issues

person holding pen on white lined paper

AVMM Ministry and Counsel (Bruce and Walter) were asked to investigate resources to assist AVMM members and attenders in end of life planning, and to get insight into appropriate use of the Meeting’s burial plot.
We ask Friends to look through these resources in preparation for a discussion of how we feel led to move forward on these issues.

We had the privilege of meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 11, with Dawn Carson, co-coordinator of Death Matters, a nonprofit that encourages and facilitates conversations around death and dying, and assists persons to make advance preparations for their own care in that process.  Dawn is a death doula and is Chair of Green Burial Nova Scotia.

Our conversation with Dawn was wonderful and productive.
Ministry and Counsel recommends three actions for AVMM members and attenders to consider, perhaps done in the following order:

  1. We encourage people to participate in local online conversations about these issues.
    Dawn and colleagues facilitate two ongoing on-line discussion fora where anyone can bring their questions about death and dying into a receptive and informative group discussion:

    1. Death Café: https://epilog.ca/death-cafe They meet the first Thursday of each month at noon, so the next meeting is Feb 2nd.
      Join their mailing list to get the Zoom link: https://epilog.ca/death-cafe#signupForm
    2. Green Burial Café: https://deathmatters.ca/programs-events/green-burial-cafe/  It meets the last Wednesday o the month at Noon, so the next is Jan 25th.
      You can sign up for notifications of meetings of the Green Burial Society here: https://mailchi.mp/b02bb3bd45bc/gbns-signup-form

These look like good places for Friends to go to become better informed about the issues regarding preparations for death and green burial.

  1. We suggest considering arranging formal training on these issues.
    Dawn offers a group three-meeting Exit Planning Workshop which, prior to the pandemic, was always done in person, but is now available online via Zoom. The workshop covers the construction of an individual Advance Directive, the establishment of substitute decision makers, and all aspects of funeral planning.

    Cost would be $140/person. Individuals could attend any of the upcoming trainings, but if we can get 8-10 of us together, with a maximum of 14, Dawn could customize a training for the Quakers. It’s possible we might partner with other local Meetings if we do not have sufficient numbers on our own.

    She would also be happy to come to the Valley to meet with us in person, but there would be extra costs for transportation and time. Likely this would be closer to $200 per person.

    Dawn summarized this training for us, and it looks to be very worthwhile. She was clear that she does not give legal advice, so will not be addressing wills or powers of attorney, focusing rather on the Advance Directive form and on the idea of Spiritual Directives that can be given to the Meeting to give guidance on appropriate activities after death.
    See: https://deathmatters.ca/programs-events/exitplanning/

  2. We encourage the Meeting to consider advocating for Green Burial locally. Dawn informed us that there are no laws against green burial in Nova Scotia. There is one cemetery that is officially recognized as a green burial site: Sunrise Park Inter-Faith Cemetery in Hatchet Lake, NS. http://www.greenburialcanada.ca/nova-scotia. However, other cemeteries are allowing it, such as the cemetery in Burlington. https://burlingtoncemetery.ca/green-burials/

    Dawn said that the secretary for the Green Burial Society of Nova Scotia lives near AVMM on the North Mountain. She said she would ask that person if she’d like to help AVMM consult with the Willowbank Cemetery (where the Meeting burial plot is located) about possible green burial there.

    The Green Burial Society of Nova Scotia has a Facebook page and also a mailing list that can be joined here:  https://mailchi.mp/b02bb3bd45bc/gbns-signup-form

Finally, a couple of other interesting resources were brought up: a website on human composting as a body disposition option (legal now in six US states, but ot yet in Canada), https://recompose.life/, and the website for a New Brunswick craftsman who prepares beautiful, simple pine containers for bodies in green burial. One version can be assembled as a bookcase and reconfigured when needed into a casket. https://www.fiddleheadcaskets.com/  https://casketkit.com/pages/video-archives     

Simple pine casket

Graphic facilitation image from death cafe, Dec 8, 2022Other resources:

Advance Directives – End-of-Life Law and Policy in Canada

Personal Directives in Nova Scotia (Official PDF Booklet )