“What’s important is The Conversation. Tell your loved ones what you want….It’s scary, but it’s good for the soul.” Rae Ann McKeating
This page is the result of our winter 2021 series, Looking Ahead, Conversations on Aging and Dying. These resources are highly recommended by facilitators and participants. Event descriptions follow the resource list.
McCall Arts and Humanities Council
Functional Medicine Idaho
Whole Mountain Health
Idaho Caregiver Alliance and Family Caregiver Navigator
Boise State University Center for the Study of Aging
Private Advance Care Planning Sessions, available by appointment
Sponsored by St. Luke’s McCall Foundation Board
- Do you need to have The Conversation with your family?
- What medical forms are we supposed to complete now?
- What questions should I be asking that I don’t know about?
St. Luke’s provides this free service. Have a private call with a trained facilitator who takes you through medical scenarios, forms, and questions. Do it alone or with your spouse, parents, children, or siblings.
Email any one of our local facilitators to arrange your session:
Questions? Call Jenny Ruemmele at 208 315 2617 or the St. Luke’s Foundation at 208 630 2200.
Additional Resources recommended by facilitators and participants
Honoring Choices Idaho. Click Resources and be amazed.
Site and trailer about Prognosis on Living, a beautiful and moving documentary about dying of cancer.
A Grief Casserole — How to help your friends & family through loss “Find the courage to show up for your grieving friend. It might feel awkward, or like you’re getting it wrong. Risk getting it wrong….stop thinking about it–just act.”
The Five Invitations: Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully by Frank Ostaseski, cofounder of Zen Hospice Center.
Advice for Future Corpses (and those who Love Them) by Sallie Tisdale, Palliative Care nurse, writer, and Buddhist Practitioner.
Share the Care: How to Organize a Group to Care for Someone Who Is Seriously Ill by Cappy Capossela and Sheila Warnock
Transcending Loss: Understanding the Lifelong Impact of Grief and How to make It Meaningful by Ashley Davis Bush
Continuing Bonds: New Understanding of Grief—Klass, Silverman & Nickman
Lessons of Loss: A Guide to Coping by Robert Neimeyer
What’s Your Grief Blog on Continuing Bonds
What’s Your Grief Blog on 16 Practical Tips for Continuing Bonds
Medicinal Camino, Plant First Aid Along “The Way” by Darcy Williamson
Finding Jill: How I Rebuilt My Life after Losing the Five People I Loved Most by Jill Kraft Thompson
Surviving Death, a Manual for Heartache by Cathy Rentzenbrink
Mourning & Mitzvah: A Guided Journal for Walking the Mourner’s Path Through Grief to Healing by Anne Brener
One Strange Rock, a National Geographic Series on Netflix has some fascinating segments on after-death customs, along with a planet full of other amazement.
Caring for My Mom with Love, Laughter, and Tears by Rae Ann McKeating
Donations for Community Hub McCall are gratefully accepted to support programming, shared resources, and community-building.
Looking Ahead was supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based Program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Thank you also to our partners:
- Discover creative ideas for living well and aging.
- Look beyond medicine for perspectives and solutions on aging, dying, and grief.
- Become more prepared for end-of-life choices.
- Know where to find help in our community.
- Learn about Palliative Care, Hospice, and other support services.
- Consider how to be a good medical consumer at end-of-life.
- Begin personal Advanced Care Planning—making sure your wishes are known and understood.
- Obtain Living Will suggestions.
- Make plans and ask for help earlier than you think you need it.
- Be specific and skillful when offering help.
- Learn how to be a good friend – what to say to someone who is grieving.
- Learn myths and reframe perspectives about grief and loss.
Book Discussions on Being Mortal, Medicine and What Matters in the End
with Dr. Gail Eberharter Rankin
Co-hosts Connie McClaren, Deanna Clauson, and Renee Silvus
From the book website: “Medicine has triumphed in modern times, transforming the dangers of childbirth, injury, and disease from harrowing to manageable. But when it comes to the inescapable realities of aging and death, what medicine can do often runs counter to what it should.
In his bestselling books, Atul Gawande, a practicing surgeon, has fearlessly revealed the struggles of his profession. Now he examines its ultimate limitations and failures – in his own practices as well as others’ – as life draws to a close. And he discovers how we can do better. He follows a hospice nurse on her rounds, a geriatrician in his clinic, and reformers turning nursing homes upside down. He finds people who show us how to have the hard conversations and how to ensure we never sacrifice what people really care about.
Riveting, honest, and humane, Being Mortal shows that the ultimate goal is not a good death but a good life – all the way to the very end.”
We will use the questions at the end of the book to guide our discussions. We welcome and encourage further exploration and comments based on your unique experiences. As a physician who has been a caregiver, I think this book can empower us to become wiser and less fearful as changes come to ourselves and those we love. Come for any or all, as time permits.
Copies are available at the Barn Owl Books and Gifts.
Gail Eberharter Rankin, MD is a physician who made her way from surgery to Functional Medicine and acupuncture to find health care that addresses underlying cause in a holistic way. She lives in McCall and thrives in the out-of-doors with her friends and family always near to her heart.
Connie McClaren is a retired RN, yoga instructor, and photographer.
Deanna Clauson is a Functional Medicine Certified Health Coach.
Renee Silvus is a Whole Health Educator, facilitator, teacher, and life coach.
with Joyce Harvey-Morgan
Our culture has encouraged us to ignore, fear and hide death, even though it is a normal and expected part of life. These days of the pandemic, death is even more present in our lives, and in fact, many people really do want to talk about it. Death Cafes provide an opportunity for an open and safe conversation about death and dying. The conversation will be facilitated. Content will vary depending on what participants want to discuss.
Joyce Harvey-Morgan is a leader of the Boise Death Café movement. She also facilitates Death Mask-making workshops and family conversations about death and dying. She supports vision quests and wilderness rites of passage. Joyce has degrees in liberal arts, art and art history, counseling, and adult education.
Room for Grief: Writing through Loss
with Laura Stavoe
We know grieving is part of healthy living, but we aren’t always taught how to grieve. In this half-day workshop, participants will learn tools and tenets for using creative writing as a way to honor loss. We will read examples from literature as a way to begin our own work. And then we will write together.
Participants will leave the workshop with many ideas and strategies for future writing. This workshop includes some writing time away from the computer. An optional second meeting will also be available where we can share writing that comes from the workshop with each other.
Continuing Bonds: You Don’t Have to Say Goodbye
with Dr. Sharon Katz, Darcy Williamson, and Jill Thompson
Retired grief counselor and educator Sharon Katz will moderate a panel format discussion featuring Jill Thompson and Darcy Williamson. Participants are invited to bring and share their ideas and perspectives.
- Dispel the myth that your relationship with someone ends after they die.
- Discuss the importance of discovering how to continue your relationship with your loved one.
- Offer examples of how that can be done.
Dr. Sharon Katz is a retired psychologist, counselor and nurse who specialized in grief and loss. Dr. Katz established the first hospice in eastern Idaho in 1980 and was the founder and advisor to support groups for grieving parents such as Compassionate Friends, Parents of Murdered Children and Survivors of Suicide. Sharon spent her career helping grieving people, teaching professionals, speaking at workshops and consulting with many agencies. She has lived part-time in McCall for many years.
Darcy Williamson, an award-winning author, is a Rocky Mountain herbalist and naturalist who lives in McCall. During her fifty-year career, she has written over twenty books and taught more than one hundred and thirty apprentices the knowledge and preparation of backyard herbal medicine. During the spring of 2017, Darcy Williamson walked the Camino Frances in remembrance of her deceased husband, Robert Sweetgall. Her book, Medicinal Camino, Plant First Aid Along “The Way” came from that pilgrimage and includes her diary describing her grief during the year after her husband died.
Jill Kraft Thompson is the author of Finding Jill: How I Rebuilt My Life after Losing the Five People I Loved Most. She dedicated her book to those who live with grief. She has spoken about grief in various venues and classes. Close to 19 years ago, she lost her husband, two young sons, her mother and her niece in a motor vehicle collision in Italy. Today, she lives in McCall with her second husband and their son.
Too Many Hats: Caregiver Identity and the Journey to Well-Being
with Tiffany Robb, Mary Holden, and Emma Ballantyne
Have you found yourself no longer relating to your loved one the way that you once did? Do you feel like you are more of a nurse than a relative—a spouse, grandparent, child, sibling, or friend?
This is a change in your identity, transitioning from relative to a caregiver. Did you know that there are things we can do to help support a caregiver that may help improve that bumpy transition?
In this session, we will examine caregiving through the Caregiver Identity Theory lens, backed by years of research from Dr. Rhonda Montgomery at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and introduce you to the Family Caregiver Navigator program.Participants will take a brief screener to preview their needs and strengths related to their caregiving situation.
We’ll discuss some of the critical categories that contribute to your well-being, such as caregiver identity and changing the rules for personal care. An open discussion will allow you to share some of your biggest challenges and successes.
The Family Caregiver Navigator program works with caregivers to assess their needs and strengths and build a customized care plan focused on personal well-being, matching the caregiver with appropriate resources that can assist.
Tiffany Robb is a research associate within the BSU Center for the Study of Aging and the Lead Navigator for the project. She has worked as a personal trainer and nutrition coach, and is very involved in the Treasure Valley community, developing a parenting group, working with neighborhood associations, and serving on several boards. Tiffany holds a Master of Health Science degree, specifically in health policy, and is passionate about empowering people, the senior population, caregivers, and end of life planning.
Mary Holden holds a degree in Social Work and a Graduate Certificate in Gerontology from Boise State University. She serves as a senior advocate with leadership roles in both the Idaho Caregiver Alliance and the Justice Alliance for Vulnerable Adults. Mary is a member of the Family Caregiver Navigator Project team working on the two year pilot project helping caregivers through their caregiving journey. She works with a network of organizations and individuals to expand opportunities for respite for caregivers and to prevent elder abuse through action and education.
Emma Ballantyne is a Masters of Social Work student at BSU working with the Navigators project as part of her fieldwork. Emma identifies as a caregiver herself to her two-year-old medically complex son. She hopes to utilize her experience and learning to help advocate for other caregivers across the lifespan as they navigate their journey. Once she graduates with her Master’s, Emma intends to obtain her Clinical Licensure working to bridge the gap between medical institutions and community supports relied on by families with caregiving needs.
Partnering with the Idaho Caregiver Alliance, the Family Caregiver Navigator, and the Boise State University Center for the Study of Aging.
Elder Care and Dementia
with Kathy Deinhardt Hill
In 2010, Kathy received a phone call from her parents’ best friend in Oregon. “You need to come and get them.” Thus started a nine-year journey, as Kathy moved her parents to Boise and became their primary caregiver. During those nine years, she learned the problems facing elderly dementia patients, their caregivers, and a community with few resources to help them.
We have plenty to talk about in this conversation–
- With dementia, one size does not fit all.
- There are effective strategies for dealing with dementia parents.
- The problems with a “Place for Mom”—independent living, assisted living, memory care, nursing homes. What’s good, what’s bad.
In home health care—
- Hospice care—not what you think it is.
- Stay out of the hospital if you can.
- Case Managers vs Care Managers
- Making the decision not to treat…
- Taking over the family—power of attorney, banking, social security, medicare…
We’ll hear about what Kathy would have done differently—a long list.
A Bittersweet Season by Jane Gross
Knocking on Heaven’s Door by Katy Butler
Dementia Reimagined by Tia Powell
Books available at the Barn Owl and the McCall Public Library
Discussion on Take Care of Dying—Get on with Living by Theo Wells
with Dr. Joan Edwards and Suzi Smith
“The greatest gift you can give your family and friends is your carefully thought out plan for handling the unexpected events at the end of your life. Here—all in one place—are the basic decisions you need to make as long as you’re living: Your Durable Power of Attorney and your Health Care Directive. Who to choose? What skills to look for? What to do in emergencies? Learn about new issues when you turn terminal. As you know more, you’ll want to decide more. It’s about control. Communicating with your health care professional and your agent—who will speak for you when you can’t—becomes critical. You want them to follow your decisions in your Health Care Directive. None of this is a single conversation—it’s an ever-changing process. It’s your life. These decisions are yours to make. So take charge and make your voice count—now. Just do it!”
Join us for a free-wheeling conversation with two super-cool women. You don’t have to read the book–everyone welcome.
Dr. Joan Edwards served as Vice President of Planning, Research and Development at the College of Southern Idaho, the College of Western Idaho, and developed the CSI Foundation. She is currently Co-Chair of the Campaign Cabinet for the Ponderosa Center in McCall. She has served on boards for the Southern Idaho Learning Center, the St. Alphonses Hospital Foundation, the American Association of Women in Community Colleges, the National Council for Resource Development, and the National Institute for Leadership Development. Joan and her husband Mel are active members of the McCall Community, as well as avid bike riders and skiers.
Suzi Smith has been conducting Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) Certification Trainings since 1985. She holds a M.S. in Counseling from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and additional certifications with Four Winds Society in Shamanic Healing and the American Council of Hypnotist Examiners. She is coauthor of Beliefs—Pathways to Health and Well-Being and NLP: The New Technology of Achievement. In partnership with NLP innovators Robert Dilts and Tim Hallbom, Suzi has developed new NLP applications in the field of health and well-being. She continues to research and develop uses of NLP for longevity as well as health. In addition to conducting trainings around the world, she consults for a variety of private and government organizations. Suzi has recently expanded to include telephone life coaching as a part of her practice.
One way to bring people together even during COVID times is through writing. This workshop will explore end-of-life writing projects from documenting the end-of-life experiences for future generations to creating collaborative online publications.
We will engage in a variety of writing exercises that can lead to legacy projects, family memoirs, letter collections, or online journals. This workshop includes some writing time away from the computer. Participants will also have an opportunity to come back together to share writing and project progress with each other.
Laura Stavoe is an educator, writer, and personal memoirist who lives in Boise. She has taught writing for thirty years writers of all ages at high schools, colleges, and community arts organizations. She is author of Tending to Endings, a blog that aims to build community and conversation around end-of-life matters.
Laura’s essays and articles have appeared in Ladies Home Journal, Mothering, Brain Child, Sunset, Parents, Parenting, American Way, Paddler, Canoe and Kayak, and elsewhere. She is working on a memoir about caregiving and transformation during the last months of her mother’s life. Laura is the founder of Story of My Life, a personal memoir service that helps people collect, write, and save family stories.
Advance Care Health Planning
with Jenny Ruemmele and Rae Ann McKeating
Plan now for health care situations. Make them less of an emergency than they could be.
Join Jenny Ruemmele and Rae McKeating, Honoring Choices Facilitators and community members, to learn about the importance of having an Advance Health Care Plan in place and sharing your preferences with those you love. The discussion will review the importance of selecting and communicating with your designated health care agent. The presentation will also review Advance Health Care forms and how simple they are to complete. Advance Health Care Planning is important for any individual over the age of 18 and can reduce stress for families if there is a situation where the patient is not able to speak for themselves and important health decisions need to be made.
Why do we all need an Advance Health Care Plan?
- We can’t plan for everything, but we can talk about what is important to us in our life and our health care
- We can’t predict the future
- Covid-19 and unexpected accidents have shown us that we need someone to advocate and speak for us if we aren’t able to do so
Jenny Ruemmele is Director of the St. Luke’s McCall Foundation.
An Honoring Choices Facilitator and passionate about end-of-life issues, Rae Ann McKeating is working on the second edition of her book, Caring for My Mom with Love, Laughter, and Tears.
Both Jenny and Rae are Advanced Care Facilitators with the St. Luke’s McCall Foundation Board.
When Death Comes
by Mary Oliver
When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse
to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;
when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,
I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering,
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?
And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,
and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,
and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,
and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.
When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.
Dissolver of Sugar
Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī
Dissolver of sugar, dissolve me,
if this is the time.
Do it gently with a touch of a hand, or a look.
Every morning I wait at dawn. That’s when
it has happened before. Or do it suddenly
like an execution. How else
can I get ready for death?
You breathe without a body, like a spark.
You grieve, and I begin to feel lighter.
You keep me away with your arm,
but the keeping away is pulling me in.