S1E87 – Woven Ends on Death & Dying Pt. I

Episode Summary

This week on Live Like the World is Dying, Inmn is joined by Wōen and Roxanne from the Woven Ends Collective to talk about death, dying, death work, and everything from how to determine who gets to make decisions about your end of life, to how to have your remains dealt with in the manor that you would like, to how to bring community collaboration into death. Next week, they continue the conversation, focusing mostly on the work of death doulas.

Host Info

Inmn can be found on Instagram @shadowtail.artificery.

Publisher Info

This show is published by Strangers in A Tangled Wilderness. We can be found at www.tangledwilderness.org, or on Twitter @TangledWild and Instagram @Tangled_Wilderness. You can support the show on Patreon at www.patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness.


**Live Like the World is Dying: Woven Ends on Death & Dying Part I **

**Inmn ** 00:15
Hello, and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the end times. I’m your host for today Inmn Neruin and I use they/them pronouns. Today we’re talking about something that we sort of reference all the time on the show, and that is death, a thing that we should all live like is going to happen someday. Because it is. I wanted to have Wōen and Roxy on to talk about this because I found myself thinking about it more and more as things change evermore rapidly in our world. And, I think it’s cool to talk about because it’s just another form of community preparedness that we can all engage in to make our end of lives easier for ourselves and for the people that we care about, and in general, just demystify the topic as we figure out how to leave this world, whether that pertains to navigating funerary industries, medical industries, legal logistics, medical interventions, the choice to die at home, how to have home burials, how to care for the dying, and how to have these conversations as a community. A content warning, obviously, we’re going to be talking about some heavy stuff, and we approach it with some amount of levity, but we do talk at some point about the idea of choosing to die from the perspective of terminal illness. But before we get into it, we are a proud member of Channel Zero network of anarchists podcasts, and here’s a jingle from another show on that network. Doo doo doo doo doo. [saying these sounds like a song melody]


**Inmn ** 02:43
And we’re back. Thanks, y’all so much for coming on the show with us today, especially to talk about a subject that I feel like is like a little bit more grim than we usually talk about. Or, I guess we kind of always always talk about it, but we never actually talk about it. So yeah, would you like to introduce yourselves with your names, pronouns, and kind of like what you do in the world?

**Wōen ** 03:17
My name is Wōen. I use he/him pronouns. I work in grave care, so burial, and generally any rot-honoring practice that I can help with.

**Roxanne ** 03:41
And my name is Roxanne. I am a nurse and have been doing end of life, and death doula sort of work outside of that, for maybe 15 years or so. Yeah.

**Inmn ** 04:01
Cool. And y’all are part of a collective that kind of specializes in this kind of work. Would y’all want to introduce that now or we could talk about it later?

**Wōen ** 04:17
Yeah, no, we can introduce it now. Our collective is called Woven Ends. We’re more recently becoming more outward facing. We’re a collection of death care practitioners and community members who are interested in helping the community. We are focused on combating the domination and alienation in our world through making our death rites and the care for the dying more autonomous and a lot more intimate.

**Roxanne ** 05:08
And accessible.

**Inmn ** 05:12
Cool. Um yeah, it’s weird how much the State is like intertwined in death. And that’s like not…I feel like that’s not something I ever realized until I realized it and then I was like, "Oh, like can you die without the State being involved?"

**Wōen ** 05:35
Like the bureaucratic storm is also guided by the industry and a lot of the rituals that we have now and the way that death operates is it’s a contrived effort, the funeral industry, to deal with all aspects after death. So, it’s a really troubling, difficult thing that families and loved ones navigate.

**Roxanne ** 05:35

**Roxanne ** 06:14
Yeah, it’s pretty devastating. It’s like Capital will take hold and commodify any and every aspect of our life possible and not even our life but our afterlife as well. Like yeah, it’s hard to believe in true freedom sometimes, but that’s why we’re here fighting for it.

**Inmn ** 06:38
Yeah, I feel like…Whatever, I’m gonna take like a pretty like light hearted and like whimsical tone today because we’re talking about something grim, but I feel like we have these ideas that like, "You know, the State’s got me in life, but at least when I die I’ll be free," and it’s like maybe? I mean, your body won’t be.

**Roxanne ** 07:14
Sadly, no. Eventually Yes but initially, no.

**Inmn ** 07:22
Yeah, I feel like that is a literal nightmare of mine. Could y’all kind of break down like what is death work? Like what is a death doula? What is the Woven Ends collective kind of like do in like a material or emotional way?

**Roxanne ** 07:50
Well, I can speak towards death doula work. What a death doula is, is a little undefined. And there are powers that be that are trying to make it more defined and kind of like more commodified. But basically, a death doula is someone who helps a family or a loved one sort of like go through the process. So that could look like, before someone dies, helping come up with some like legacy project, some things that people want to leave behind, or how someone wants to be remembered. So, that could be like, you know, if a 40 year old who has three kids dies, kind of legacy work you could do with someone in that situation is like, you know, help them record videos for their kids’ future birthdays, you know, stuff like that so that way when their kids get older, like hit those milestones, they can have this video from their parent that has been gone for a while. So yeah, just kind of like, you know, one aspect is focusing on legacy work. Another aspect is just kind of like emotionally helping people with the grieving process, whether that be the person who’s actually passing away or the family sort of like talking through the process of all of that with them. And then, you know, other aspects could be more helping set up funerary services, trying to help work on community aspects of disposition. Yeah, death doula is…It’s sort of that the individual does different things. And I think if someone’s interested in having a death doula, I would really ask questions about what specific services they provide.

**Wōen ** 09:59
Yeah, And I can speak more to like our collective. We definitely, we try to connect the right people to help different community members. So, that could be a death doula or even a grave digger. So, a lot of what we do is like guidance around the whole process. And we definitely want to like expand our scope completely to be able to care for the whole process. But most of what we’ve been doing in the past, and currently, is helping folks with finding burial options that are accessible and hopefully free. And we’ve been able to create a network of free home burial grounds where we live. And it’s been really awesome to be able to provide this for free. And it usually is in tandem with a lot more care going on with death doulas and generally the radial support that happens when you’re trying to create a more autonomous situation.

**Roxanne ** 11:28
I would also say that a part of the sort of intentional death work thing is to really help communities and individuals kind of like shift narratives towards death. We live in a really deathphobic society. And it is a thing that I think…you know, like, even in our introduction, we’re like, "Okay, so this is a really grim topic," but it’s interesting, because it’s one of, you know, aside from being alive, it’s the only other thing that everyone is going to experience, like the one thing that even if you have nothing in common with somebody else, the fact that you’re going to die is a thing that you have in common. And so I feel like there’s a lot of room for connection there. And, a part of the sort of work is to try to like, you know, find connection, find community, and sort of shift the narrative around this very natural and inevitable thing that’s going to happen, and open up room and space for there to be beauty and transition in that instead of just fear. Because I think oftentimes, people don’t actually…They’re not scared to die. They’re scared of being in pain. And those are very different things. So I think, yeah, just like…death workers offer a space for us to really intentionally look at that and say, like, "Okay, you’re feeling scared? What is it that you’re scared of?" You know? And really helping shift that narrative and also hopefully providing a space where nobody has to die alone. You know, sometimes that’s just going to happen, but if at all possible, making sure that we can provide space–unless someone wants to–but they don’t have to die alone.

**Inmn ** 13:32
Yeah, we do live in a really deathphobic society. And I…you know, obviously it’s a sad and hard and difficult thing, but I feel like I have always wished that there…that we as a culture did have different attitudes or different ways that we deal with it, or grieve, or like mourn, or whatever. I don’t know, I’ve just had a couple kind of funny funerary experiences, where I was like, "Are we celebrating this person’s life? Or are we mad at them because they didn’t tell anyone how sick they were?" And that just like…Yeah, just like a lot of funny experiences like that. Whereas, I wish that we were, I wish we had, that we had a different attitude towards this right now because I’m not sure if this attitude is like helping anyone.

**Roxanne ** 14:43
Yeah, definitely. And I think you bring up a good point too, where because of deathphobia but also because of our obsession with what we consider health, sometimes people are so scared to admit that they’re sick because there’s so little support and resource around that. And people don’t want to be, you know, a burden to each other. And instead of being angry at our friends because they wouldn’t tell us how sick they are, it’s a great time to, you know, take a moment and be like, "Okay, why do we live in a world in which someone that I loved very much could not tell me how sick they were? And like, how do I fight that world instead of my friend?"

**Inmn ** 15:37
Yeah, yeah, totally. You mentioned earlier–I just want to like hit on this before we get too far away from it–but there being some effort to make being a death doula more of a defined thing? And I’m–I know, this is subjective–but is that a good thing? Is that a bad thing? Is that a complicated thing?

**Roxanne ** 16:01
I mean, in my personal opinion, I’m not for that. I feel like the way…like I understand and respect people wanting to figure out how to do this work and still…Like, it makes sense to me that people want to do this work in a permanent way in this world that we live in, this society of capitalism, like people need to get paid for their time in order to survive. Like that makes sense to me. But, I think that there can be a kind of predatory nature to it. And these…It’s like the commodification of the death, dying, death doula world is really similar to what happened in the birth community. And I think that’s kind of interesting that the link between the two, because people have been doulaing each other since people were…were born about how to do these things. And, if we lived in communities where we were interacting with birth and death in more tangible ways then we wouldn’t need sort of outsiders to tell us how to do these things. But yeah, I think that the certification process doesn’t make sense. I think it’s just another platform of institutionalization and commodification that isn’t necessary, you know? It’s like, okay, a lot of these certification organizations are offering education, which is amazing, yes. Like, education is so important. But the real education–and I feel like I learned this in nursing school, too–like, you can learn all the ins-and-outs of things, but where you’re actually going to learn is through experience. So like, you want to learn how to be a death, doula? Go volunteer for hospice. Like, go watch people die and you will learn so much just from having that experience or like, you know–and not just hospice. You know, there’s a lot of ways that people can sit with people at the end of their life. But, you know, like you don’t need to pay someone to teach you how to be an active listener.

**Wōen ** 18:37
Yeah, and I think…Like in the realm that I work in–which is what they call green or natural burial–like it’s all the same pattern of pushing towards professionalization and specialization, and it’s being co-opted by the Capitalist system. Even though a lot of these cemeteries that are providing this like really beautiful practice, they didn’t intend on that and they structured themselves as a nonprofit. So they just continued to fall into the trappings of what happens when you professionalize something. And now there’s overarching regulatory institutions and it’s just…It makes it really hard to get into the process and start a cemetery and…Yeah, and they’re walking hand-in-hand with the rest of the funeral industry, so, like annually increasing prices for these rituals that were supposed to be a lot more accessible and ecological, but they’re not. They’re not accessible.

**Roxanne ** 20:07
Totally. And I feel like this…Yeah, this focus on specialization really, you know, negates and alienates the fact that we have inherent wisdom as to how to handle these situations. And then when we can’t accept or like don’t have–courage isn’t the word that I’m looking for–confidence in our own, you know, kind of inherent wisdom, then we feel like we need a specialist to tell us what to do, but it’s all right there inside of us in information that we can pass down with each other through, you know, actually having a relationship with death, and dying, and disposition, and all the things. So I feel like, yeah, the more we can be connected and like with death, honestly, the better we can be with life also.

**Wōen ** 21:11
Yeah, and when we say, "disposition," we mean burial, cremation, you know, being eaten by birds, everything. It’s a general term.

**Inmn ** 21:27
Yeah, yeah. I feel like…it’s fun to use this as the thing to compare it to, but, you know, I think it’s important for us to like have, you know, guides through hard times or like people to…people who are very familiar with or versed in leading these experiences or facilitating these experiences, and it’s…like, what you were just describing of kind of like what the Death industry is, it reminds me of a like boutique coffee shop or something. Yeah, like turning death and ritual into a boutique coffee experience that is just another strange industry that maybe people feel better about, but, yeah, I don’t know. I don’t know how much actual connection or like community building that is doing?

**Roxanne ** 22:36
Totally. Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. Yeah, it’s a similar thing. Yeah. And again, they did that with the birthing community too. It’s, yeah, it’s sad.

**Wōen ** 22:50
Yeah, and, you know, like with organic foods.

**Inmn ** 22:57
Yeah. To kind of switch gears a little bit, why is it important to think about this stuff now? Like, why is it important to think about dying? Why should we be having these conversations as a community?

**Wōen ** 23:16
Yeah, I mean, I think it’s always been important when you want a culture that renews itself, and especially now when we’re facing intense upheaval, developing a deeper intimacy with death, it helps us claim a place, and claim ancestors, and develop a deeper resilience to the chaos in our world. Like when thinking about movements and how under the regime of alienation, and the lack of intergenerational connection, and especially like connection to our ancestors, like, things can really be thwarted without those connections to place or to the people that came before. Yeah, and so being able to be with the unexplainable and unknowable aspect of like…

**Roxanne ** 24:47
I think now, as Wōen was just saying, it’s so important because we are living in pretty devastating times. It’s pretty obvious, I think, to most people with what’s going on with the climate, you know, with ecological destruction getting worse very viscerally year by year and not just in one place but all across the world where people are really…You know, you live in Arizona…Wait, maybe I shouldn’t say that…

**Inmn ** 25:33
I’ve said it multiple times.

**Roxanne ** 25:38
Yeah, well, for example, you live in a place that in the summer if someone accidentally tripped and fell, they would burn themselves on the ground and potentially have to go to the burn ICU. Like, that wasn’t true five years ago and it’s just only going to become more true for more places across the world. And I think, yeah, just really taking inventory of the trajectory that the world is on right now means that we’re…When you’re living on a dying planet, you’re gonna have to deal with the fact that we are a part of that planet and not separate from that. And I think also, you know, the question of "Why now?" is, like, both a societal question and then also kind of an individual question because I think…You know, I am 39 years old. I think most people in their 20s, 30s, 40s, even 50s aren’t really thinking, and hopefully, you know…People even younger than that obviously, need to be thinking about this stuff, too. But I think that, you know, often the more like normative stance–which is also partially a bliss–is just to be like, "Oh, you know, if I have a fine bill of health then why should I be concerned about these things?" And we all know people die unexpectedly. We all know our relationship to health, and all the different forms that that can look like, can change at any moment. We all know that life isn’t just inevitable. And so I think really thinking about these things and really starting to prepare for these things is one of the best things we can do to help not just, you know, those around us when we die, but also to help inform how we live our lives. No matter what age you are, I think it’s important to be thinking about and talking about. I’ve been having conversations, for example, with my mom about the fact that she was gonna die since I was like five years old. And then at some point, I was like, "Oh, wait, if you’re dying, that means I’m dying too. Shit, I’m gonna have to think about this."

**Inmn ** 28:23
Yeah, what does? You know, this is the fun moment where we get to say the name of the podcast in a question, but how does one live like they’re dying? Like, what does that mean?

**Wōen ** 28:40
I mean, I think it’s understanding that ecologically and spiritually the dead make the world. Our ancestors are not just like our [uninterpretable. "In our dirt?"]. They’re what came before use. They’re everything we eat, and breathe, and even conceive of, and dream of. So, it’s fully opening our minds to understanding the deep cycle of life.

**Roxanne ** 29:17
Yeah. And, you know, some intentionality, recognizing that the things that we do and how we treat ourselves and each other do matter, you know? Like they do matter because we are people experiencing each other. Or, they don’t matter in the way that we are tiny pieces of sand floating around on this huge rock in this ginormous atmosphere. You know? It’s like it’s both. Both things are happening at the same time. We are a multitude it turns out? Both how we are and who we are matters and also doesn’t at all. But I think just like really honoring the fact that it’s a limited resource, that life is actually a limited resource, and that the time that we spend together is also limited, and trying to really love people while you can, to be brave enough to really love the people in your life while you can.

**Inmn ** 30:32
Yeah, I feel like we have such a…our culture has such a focus on the concept of "later" and the future that like…And you know, this is maybe obvious because a lot of the society that we live in is founded on this idea of…or like founded by people who are informed by a religion that embraces an afterlife that…and something I’ve really appreciated about–I’m not necessarily an atheist–but like something I’ve always appreciated about atheism is that it is weirdly pro life and pro living in this way where it’s like, "Yeah, there’s nothing after this so you gotta do what you want to do now, not later.

**Wōen ** 31:32
Yeah that’s kind of…I mean, I think the Christian worldview is inherently disassociating from your body? Yeah. Not a good place to start.

**Inmn ** 31:53
Yeah, just to switch gears a little bit, I want to talk a little bit more about the logistics of death. So, something that I think about a lot is like, if, you know, if I get sick tomorrow, if I get in an accident tomorrow and like my condition suddenly changes like rapidly, and I have feelings about how I want…like what interventions I want taken or how I want…Let’s start with interventions. And then we’ll move on to other bits, but how do I prepare for that? How do I prepare for getting the…having the interventions that I want taken or not taken? Or, how do I get to choose who gets to make those decisions when I’m no longer able to?

**Wōen ** 32:59
So, the simplest answer to that would be to complete an Advanced Directive that’s legally binding. And so this designates the person who will be your advocate legally, to make choices at the end of life and after death. Yeah, and this ends up…Yeah, this supersedes the legal next of kin, which without designating the power of attorney, will be your biological family. So this is really important if you don’t want them to be in charge of what you want to happen to you at the end of life or after your death.

**Inmn ** 34:00
Do you have something to add to that Roxy?

**Roxanne ** 34:02
I do. I think that I just wanted to add that making choices around your health care power of attorney, like who that person should or could be, I think sometimes there can be a lot of pressure from people that are close to you that just because you’re close with someone that they should be the one to help make those medical decisions for you. But, I would like to argue that maybe that’s not always the best person. What you want in these situations is someone who will follow the directive that you lay out, because just because you have this document stating how you would like for things to go, at the end of the day, the healthcare power of attorney actually gets to make the final call. So maybe you say, you know, "CPR is okay. But I don’t want to be intubated." At the end of the day, if your healthcare power of attorney decides, "I want them to be intubated," despite what your paperwork says, they can intubate you. So you really want to pick someone who can…who you think will follow what you’ve asked for and also someone who, even if they don’t have the information themselves, will educate themselves or ask the right questions to make decisions that they think you will want. And it’s also I think good to think about, you know, if, for example, you think your partner is going to be so worried and like so in a process of grief, that maybe they’re not the one to choose because maybe it’s better for them to just to get to be in the grief process and not having to make these big decisions. I’ve seen so many times in the hospital where the family feels like if they choose to, quote unquote, "Pull the plug," that they’re the ones that killed their loved one, not whatever, you know, situation their person was in or just that the bodies can only handle so much. And I think that, yeah, giving someone healthcare power of attorney is–I’m not going to say it’s a burden–but there is definitely the potential for weight behind that and it is a serious question. It’s not…it’s not a popularity contest. It’s not about who you like the most. It’s about who you really think can help make the decisions when they need to be made or who’s going to be brave enough to call it when it needs to be called.

**Inmn ** 37:24
Yeah, yeah. That makes sense.

**Wōen ** 37:27
Yeah, I think that just kind of reveals the need for, you know, models of anarchist mutual aid where we all support each other. And it’s like, being able to have these conversations and support each other outside of these really normative pathways of the nuclear family. And yeah, breaking that prescription on…

**Roxanne ** 38:04
I guess I just wanted to add that, for sure, if you want to make sure, as as close as is possible…If you wanted to make sure as much as what’s in your capability that your wishes are going to be met with interventions, having an Advanced Directive is the only real way to do that legally. So, if you don’t feel like, as Wōen was saying earlier, if you don’t feel like you fully trust your family to do the things that you would want to do, you have to have that written down. You have to have it notarized. You really have to go through that process. It’s really important.

**Inmn ** 38:45
Yeah, and then it seems what is kind of equally as important is having those conversations with your community and with whoever you’re designating as your power of attorney, so that like…Yeah, it’s like, I’m imagining in this situation that you’ve built where like, your partner might not be the best person, so you make this Advanced Directive and you designate someone, who’s maybe not your partner, as the power of attorney, and then it seems like you have to then have conversations with that person, or with your community as a whole, about what you want. And then…Like, I’m imagining this situation where you do that and then it’s like–so it’s not entirely falling on one person–maybe one person has to legally make those decisions, but like other people can support them or like it can be a little like network of support that like kind of helps hold people to like what your best wishes were? Does that kind of make sense?

**Wōen ** 39:53
Absolutely. And it’s like…an Advanced Directive is not all encompassing. Like, being able to guide the types of rituals you want and…Yeah, like, every little detail that you want, you should be able to have, but you have to have those conversations and they have to be on going with as many of your loved ones as possible. So, the Advanced Directive is kind of a way to safeguard against the powers that be from taking control of your life and your death. But, it [hard to tell, but probably "lasts"] like a lot of other guidance that relies on being able to talk about it.

**Inmn ** 40:42
So, this is something that I was kind of thinking about with this is like if…So, say maybe that in this hypothetical that I don’t have like the best relationship with my parents, or say I have a fine relationship with my parents who are still alive, but I don’t think they would make the best decisions, so I designate someone from, you know, my chosen family network to be my power of attorney. But then, you know, I get sick. I get into an accident. And suddenly, my family, my biological family and my chosen family, are in the same room. Is there? I imagine those situations can get pretty contentious, especially for my biological family to find out that they do not have the power of attorney. Like, I guess, obviously, you should maybe have those conversations with your family, but like I…You know, I would rather…I would rather not have that conversation with my family where I’m like, "Hi, I have taken away your medical power of attorney over me." But I also don’t want to like necessarily entirely pass that off to my friends to deal with. Like…I don’t know, have you like seen situations like that that were contentious, went well, or like, do you have any tips for navigating that?

**Wōen ** 42:24
Well, I mean, in different forms I’ve seen it. I think it’s important to say, once you have your power of attorney designated the family no longer have…like, they don’t have control. The power of attorney does. And so like in a situation like you’re describing, I think, the idea of communal care comes in, where you can have…Like, maybe the person who is your health care advocate isn’t necessarily the one who is negotiating with the family or mediating. Just having more people involved to take care of the situation, I think is the best advice I can give.

**Roxanne ** 43:20
Yeah, I would say, you know, I always push towards tending towards collaboration when possible. So if someone’s family is just absolutely unwilling to work with, you know, the chosen family or the person who has power of attorney then honestly that situation actually just hurts them more. So, I think as much as people can collaborate, the better. And recognizing and appreciating the fact that everyone in a situation is going through some kind of fear and grief, and we don’t always behave our best in those situations. So, trying to be generous with each other and give each other time and space to–you know, I’m not saying you have to deal with someone using abusive language towards you or anything like that–but just, you know, recognizing that this can be a real space of grief and that collaboration might not seem possible at first and then it is. I’ve had situations where collaboration seemed really possible. And then the friend’s family member flipped out and tried to get us all kicked out of the hospital. This is before I was a nurse and was just a really kind of traumatic situation for everyone but ended up–like this is actually the situation that really got me on the tip of like, "Oh, we have to have Advanced Directives. This is like imperative." But yeah, I think, as Wōen already said, as much as people can work with each other and collaborate, even if you’ve been told stories throughout your whole friendship with someone about, you know, what a monster their parent is, or whatever, just like focus on the task at hand, which is helping your friend get safe, and accessible, and good care for as long as they can. And if you need the family to be a part of that, great. And if a family has to go–because sometimes the family’s gotta go–you get to make that call. And it’s like, if they gotta go, they gotta go. But hopefully that won’t be the case. I think it’s just…like from a harm reductionist standpoint.

**Inmn ** 46:02
Yeah, yeah. Does a family have any legal recourse against a power of attorney? Like, I can imagine a family believing that they have some kind of legal recourse, but like could they sue people? Could they challenge it?

**Wōen ** 46:22
I mean, I’m gonna say, no. I know that that happens like a lot of legal challenges happen. But in the moment, I think, what should guide is that health care and funeral services will honor the healthcare power of attorney. So yeah, I think that that is a risk in a really contentious situation, but it is not likely that the healthcare system or the funeral professionals will dishonor the Advanced Directive.

**Roxanne ** 47:12
And it might be a situation, like in a hospital sort of setting, it might be a thing where they kind of set up a mediation with an ethics board sort of thing. But at the end of the day, the legal document is the legal document. Yeah.

**Inmn ** 47:30
Yeah. And, I’m imagining that the answer to this is along a similar lines, but like, in the reverse situation, if I don’t have a power of attorney designated or an Advanced Directive, but I have, you know, my friends that I’ve had these conversations with about this or I have a journal entry or something about this, I’m guessing that doesn’t have…like, at the end of the day, it’s the the family or the next of kin, whoever has been legally designated has all of that power to make those decisions?

**Wōen ** 48:07
Yeah, and again, that’s where a united community who can help, you know, maybe approach the family to be able to negotiate or collaborate. Yeah, that would be the right place to start. But also, if that’s not possible, knowing that you can still hold space for your grief as a community even if you’re separated from the actual process of dying and death, and that you can enact the depths of meaning that you need and connection with each other. Yeah.

**Roxanne ** 48:07

**Inmn ** 49:02
Um, to kind of switch gears a little bit, this is a weird question. God. How much does it cost to die? Like obviously, you know, if you do die then that expense is not going to be your responsibility, but I’m imagining this situation like from–I don’t know if y’all have seen that movie Little Miss Sunshine. [Roxanne makes an affirmative noise] But like, the grandpa dies, and they’re like, "It’ll cost this much money to get the body," and they’re like, "We don’t have that." So, they steal the body. Yeah, how much does it cost to die and have your remains something or anothered? I don’t know what…I don’t know what a good word is.

**Wōen ** 49:55
Yeah, yeah. I mean, I can definitely speak to after death. I think the national average has risen, but like a few years ago it was around $8,000 to do a really normal funeral service like burial. More and more people are choosing cremation because it is cheaper, even though it is getting more expensive. And the average cremation cost is anywhere from $1000 to $3000 based on what type of package you buy from the funeral home. There’s a lot of ways that funeral homes can be predatory. Not all funeral homes are predatory, but the vast majority are. And every year it gets more expensive. So yeah, it just depends on your form of disposition. So like, if you’re doing cremation it’s gonna be a lot cheaper. But often people choose that because it’s cheaper, not because of thoughts of that’s exactly what they wanted, you know? They’re thinking about the financial situation of the family, and yeah, it shouldn’t be that way. They should have the type of ritual and disposition that they want. Yeah, it’s a pretty horrifying situation. Yeah.

**Inmn ** 51:28
And, like, what happens to…You know, normally when you go to the hospital there’s a bill, but if you die, like who has to pay for the care that you received?

**Roxanne ** 51:44
Yeah, your family will get that debt as far as I understand. They’re a next of kin kind of situation.

**Inmn ** 52:00
So, when I think about my own wishes around my remains, you know, one of those fantasies or ideas is that I would love to, you know, not be embalmed. I would love to have my body rot in the ground. Is that possible?

**Wōen ** 52:16
Absolutely. To start, the only federal law around death is that you don’t have to be embalmed. It’s a strange, actually good law as kind of a response to an exploding funeral industry I think around–I don’t exactly remember–decades ago. And so a lot of advocates pushed for that to happen. Yeah, so you definitely don’t have to be embalmed even if you go to a funeral home. And if they say like, "This is the only way," they’re lying. But luckily that’s happening less and less because natural burial, or what they call green burial, is getting a lot more popular. And it’s, I think in all states now in this country you can find a place at least within like 100 miles. But, I would advocate that if you have access to land in any way, you should do a home burial, even if that means you have to go through some bureaucracy and like create an official cemetery. You should do that because you’ve now created a burial ground that others can be buried at in the type of way that you want, to honor rot, to honor the ecosystem. Yeah, so definitely what you want is very possible.

**Inmn ** 54:15
Cool. Um, yeah, can–I’m sure it’s complicated state by state–but like, can you if you own land, or you know someone that owns land, they can just designate part of it as a cemetery and then people can get buried there? Is that like? What is that process like?

**Wōen ** 54:39
It really is county by county. Yeah, county by county. Yeah, it’s really…I would say where we, where I am in the southeast, as a general statement, in any rural area it is widely practiced still and it’s very easy to do home burial. And as another general statement, you just…you can’t do this within city limits. And I think that, for good reason, because, you know, they are hubs of capitalism with land turning over and…Like, from where we’re sitting even, you know, half a mile down the road, they’re desecrating a Black cemetery that they just unearthed that had been paved over at least twice. So it’s…I think, like, yeah. So, being able to be outside of the city limits is the best option and most accessible. I know some states are more difficult. And there’s more…like there’s more red tape. I would say to research where you live. Yeah. And really think about doing this for your community.

**Roxanne ** 55:59
What a gift. We live in a time where land and space is becoming–I mean, has been, is becoming–such an intense battlefield for resources. It’s just like a really, really intense thing to have is land and space. So being able to provide that for people for free, even just to put their body in is such an incredible resource.

**Wōen ** 56:34
Yeah, I know there’s…I know there’s a lot of kind of…I’ve heard of some wild ways to have your remains dealt with that…Maybe just to add a little bit of fun levity to the situation. But uh, I’ve heard you can get turned into diamonds now?

**Roxanne ** 56:58

**Inmn ** 57:00

**Wōen ** 57:00
You can get turned into a bowling ball.

**Inmn ** 57:03
You can get turned into a bowling ball? I feel like this is a plot to a movie from the 90s.

**Wōen ** 57:10
Yeah, I mean, it’s…Yeah, you can do a lot with cremated remains. Pretty cool.

**Roxanne ** 57:18
Mushroom soup.

**Wōen ** 57:19

**Roxanne ** 57:20
I’m really into the soup, personally.

**Inmn ** 57:22
The mushroom soup?

**Roxanne ** 57:24

**Inmn ** 57:25
What is the mushroom soup?

**Wōen ** 57:27
What the mushrooms do. I would say it is a little…there needs to be more research on this mushroom soup. But, fungus is a late stage decomposer and this mushroom soup is something you’re supposed to be buried in. That’s what they’re proposing. But often initial decomposition is way too hot and will eat up fungus. And so, it’s a little bit not completely thought out. Yeah, so I wouldn’t advocate for the mushroom soup, but I would advocate for, you know, creating an aerobic environment to be buried in so you rot really well. And you don’t have to worry, the fungus will be there. They will be there to eat up your bones and all your desiccated tissue. Yeah.

**Roxanne ** 58:30
I’m picturing like ground lasagna, you know, where there’s like dirt, and worms, and things, and then like a layer of mycelial…input.

**Wōen ** 58:47
Yeah, that makes the world go round.

**Inmn ** 58:51
Yeah. And you can, like on a similar vein, I’ve heard in Oregon you can get composted?

**Wōen ** 59:03
Yeah, I think now it’s legal in eight states. It started in Seattle. They call it human composting or natural organic reduction is another term they use. But basically, they’re accelerating the decomposition of your soft tissues. I think it’s a really awesome thing, especially for folks who don’t have access to land because you become soil really fast. And I think a lot of them partner with forest areas where they’ll spread your soil. Yeah, I think it’s awesome. And I really hope that they make it accessible, you know, like the rest of the Green Death movement. It remains to be seen. But, I hope that that happens.

**Inmn ** 1:00:14
Thanks so much for listening. This turned into a much longer episode than we thought it would, which is great that there’s just so much to talk about around this topic. So, that’s the end of part one. If you enjoyed the show, please go talk to your community about death and tell us about it. And, think about filing an Advanced Medical Directive and power of attorney. We will be back next week with the second half of this episode where me and Roxy will talk a lot more about what it means to be a death doula. I know these topics can be hard and scary, but I think talking about them helps us to not worry about them as much and offers a lot of hope to our communal resilience. If you enjoyed the show, please go tell people about it. You can support this podcast by telling people about it. You can support it by talking about it on social media, rating, and reviewing, or doing whatever the nameless algorithm calls for, as much as I don’t want that to be something that’s true. You can also support us in a financial way by following us on Patreon at patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness. Our Patreon helps pay for things like transcriptions or our lovely audio editor, Bursts, as well as going to support our publisher, Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness. We put out a few more podcasts including my other podcast Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness, a monthly podcast of anarchist literature, and the Anarcho Geek Power Hour, which is the podcast for people who love movies and hate cops. And we would like to shout out some of our patrons in particular. Thank you Carson, Lord Harken, Trixter, Princess Miranda, BenBen, anonymous, Funder, Jans, Oxalis. Janice & O’dell, Paige, Aly, paparouna, Milica, Boise Mutual Aid, theo, Hunter, Shawn, SJ, Paige, Mikki, Nicole, David, Dana, Chelsea, Cat J., Staro, Jenipher, Eleanor, Kirk, Sam, Chris, Michaiah, and as always, Hoss the Dog. Thanks so much. We seriously couldn’t do it without you. I hope that everyone is doing as well as they can with everything that’s happening and we will see you next week for the second part of this episode.

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