Death and Dying

death and dying discussion series 2019

Program Dates, Titles, Descriptions and Speakers

March 5 to September 10, 2019

March 5, 2019 -- Rest in Peace: What Happens to My Body when I Die?

(Video recording: 58 min.)

Experts will discuss traditional and new ways of how to handle one’s body after death, including embalming, cremation, green burial, home funerals and donating one’s body to science.

Speakers: Fred Shevchenko, Sullivan’s and Duggan’s Serra Funeral Services; Amy Jones, Neptune Society of Northern California; Janeth Gomez, Fernwood Cemetery; Jerrigrace Lyons, Final Passages and Claudette Delva, Willed Body Program, UCSF.

April 4, 2019 -- How Different Faith Traditions View Death

(Video recording: 1 hr. 37 min.)

Representatives from local religious groups talk about how faith and beliefs can impact patients' end of life decisions. How do they comfort those who are in pain and dying? Are there specific customs that are observed? What kind of spiritual guidance can they provide to patients at the end of their lives?

Speakers: Rev. Ron Kobata, Buddhist Church of San Francisco; Sister Sukanya, Brahma Kumaris; Fran Johns, Calvary Presbyterian Church; Rabbi Eric Weiss, Bay Area Jewish Healing Center; Iftekhar Hai, United Muslims of America Interfaith Alliance; Father Pablo Iwaszewicz, Chaplain, St. Mary's Hospital. Moderator: Michael Pappas, executive director, San Francisco Interfaith Council.

May 7, 2019 -- How to Die in California

(Audio recording with film and PowerPoint: 2 hrs. 6 min.)

The End of Life Option Act is a California law which allows terminally ill, mentally capable patients to request aid-in-dying – a prescription for medication that will end their life at their own chosen time. Signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on October 5, 2015, it went into effect on June 9, 2016. California is the fifth state to enact an aid-in-dying law. Learn about end-of-life options in California and what it means.

Speakers: Richard Beeman, Compassion and Choices; Thalia DeWolf, Bay Area End of Life Options; AnneMarie Olson, Hospice by the Bay; Wendell Stephenson, Final Exit Network. Also, an excerpt from the documentary, A Dance with Death: The Final Days of Kelly Johnson, produced by The New Fillmore.

June 6, 2019 -- Last Wishes: Start the Conversation Now!

Are you finding it difficult to talk with your family or close friends about your end-of-life wishes? Although death is an inevitable part of life, many of us don’t want to admit that we’re not going to live forever.

Join us for a fun, interactive session, where you’re invited to play a game that’s designed to start the conversation and explore what matters most to you in life. Dyalogues will help you talk more openly about planning, living and dying well. You’ll also learn about different types of advance healthcare directives and how to choose the right one for your needs.

Speakers: Nancy Belza and Paul Puccinelli, Founders, Dyalogues; Jeff Draisin, MD, Institute for Health and Healing; Anita Ho, Ph.D., UCSF Bioethics Program.

July 9, 2019 -- Sitting with the Dying: Rituals and Resources

(Audio recording with PowerPoint: 1 hr. 20 min.)

How do you sit with a family member or friend who is dying? What can you say or do for them? How do you let them know you care? Our experts will share their insights, experiences and lessons learned from working and being with people who are in the process of dying.

Speakers: Judith Redwing Keyssar, RN, Palliative Care Clinician, author, Last Acts of Kindness: Lessons for the Living from the Bedsides of the Dying; Irene Smith, founder, Everflowing: The Language of Touch; Marshall White, Hospice by the Bay; Elizabeth Wong, Doulagivers of the San Francisco Bay Area; and Lori Goldwyn, East Bay End of Life Doula Network.

July 16, 2019 -- At the Threshold of Death: Words and Song

(Video recording: 1 hr. 24 min.)

What do people say when they're dying? Lisa Smartt, linguist and author of Words at the Threshold: What We Say as We’re Nearing Death, will talk about her research, which opens the discussion of whether there is life after death. Her work marks a new way of understanding the process of dying and gives us clues as to how we can best live our lives on earth.

What do people want to hear when they're dying? Kate Munger, founder of Threshold Choir, celebrates 19 years of singing to the terminally ill. She will talk about how she created Threshold Choir, which has grown into a network of over 220 a cappella choirs worldwide, a community whose mission is to sing to comfort those who are dying.

Please join Lisa Smartt and Kate Munger, who will talk about how their work affects those at the threshold of death.

August 13, 2019 -- Talking with Children about Death and Supporting Them Through Loss

(Video recording: 1 hr. 50 min.)

How do you talk to children and teens about death? When children lose a family member or friend, how do you comfort them? What words tell a child that someone is dying or has died? When is the right age to start talking to a child about the subject? Join our experts who will share their knowledge and experience about how to help children through the grieving process.

Speakers: Patricia Murphy, co-founder and director and Andrea Bass, therapist and associate director, Josie’s Place for Bereaved Youth and Families; Dawn Gross, MD, Ph.D., Hospice & Palliative Medicine UCSF.

September 10, 2019 -- Grieving the Loss of a Pet

(Audio recording with PowerPoint: 1 hr. 31 min.)

Why does it hurt so much when my beloved pet dies? How can I celebrate and honor the life of my cherished pet, who has been a loving, loyal friend and companion? How can I ensure my pet is cared for if s/he outlives me?

Come join our conversation about why grief is so hard and how to care for yourself as you move through this time. Learn about different ways to say goodbye to your pet and the healing power of ceremonies, rituals and memorials.

Speakers: Betty Carmack, R.N., Author, Grieving the Death of a Pet; Jessica Sananes, SF SPCA Sido Program, Planned Giving Officer; Sally Shannon, End of Life Coach and Consultant.

For more information, please contact: Janet Tom, Reference Librarian, Business, Science and Technology Department, San Francisco Public Library: or 415.557.4460.