About Ashland Death Café
Located in the theater-centric town of Ashland, Oregon, Laurel Miller and Marla Estes offered two intimate Death Café gatherings in 2013. Early in 2015, end-of-life mavens (= specialists/ facilitators) Selene Seltzer and Laurel Miller came together to discuss and explore community members’ expressed desires to discuss death and dying and also to aid and support their service to the community. Thus Ashland Death Café was revived. The word spread and others with End of Life, Hospice and psychotherapy group experience volunteered their time, energy and facilitation skills to serve those interested.
With 6 facilitators and 45 attendees, our first Death Café was held June 23, 2015. We were all, attendees and facilitators alike, touched by the willingness and sincerity of those in attendance to be transparent and honest in a group of mostly strangers. Over and over we heard how refreshing it was to be welcomed and deeply heard when everyone spoke of their interests, experiences and concerns.
Interest continues to grow. We limit the number of attendees to keep the groups small and intimate, and there is often a wait list. We continue to receive feedback from our attendees encouraging us to offer more events and a broader range of resources.
We follow the guidelines set by DeathCafe.com.
Ashland Death Cafés are not intended as a bereavement support, grief counseling or therapy group.
These gatherings may not be appropriate for people who have experienced a very recent and/or traumatic loss or death.
There is no intention of leading participants towards any particular conclusion, product or course of action.
We welcome you to join us!
• About Our Facilitators •
Laurel is passionate about working with people, young and old, around end-of-life topics. She completed the Anam Cara Program at the Sacred Art of Living Center. She volunteers with Compassion and Choices working with individuals and their families as they make their end-of-life choices. She’s a member of the Southern Oregon Hevre Kadisha. She leads workshops that support the participant’s desire to explore themselves and the mystery of life and death. Also a seasoned mediator, an independent coach and facilitator, Laurel is dedicated to supporting individuals and the conversations that they need to have before they are no longer able.
Pat is currently the volunteer "on-call" chaplain for Asante Ashland Community Hospice and has served with the organization for the last seven years. He is ordained as an interfaith minister and spent 18 years living, working and teaching in intentional spiritual communities. Pat has continued his education here in Oregon completing four modules of the Richard Groves, Anam Cara training. Pat says: “I see myself as an ‘anam cara’, a soul friend and companion. I am ineffably drawn to abiding in the mystery of the moment with those in the dying process (and aren't we all)."
Jen is a writer, consultant and laughter yogini with a passion for uplifting the human spirit. After her life-partner died in 2011, Jen began sharing her experiences of death, grief, joy and optimism to support others on their journeys (JenniferMathews.com). In her 2019 TEDx Talk "Death is Inevitable, Grief is Not," she challenges us to rethink the expectation of grief and how we respond to death. In recent years, Jen has worked with the community outreach and training team for the award-winning film Death Makes Life Possible. She has facilitated conversations about death and the afterlife across the US, as well as the UK and Ireland. Her home base is Mount Shasta, CA.
Judy is a licensed clinical social worker, practicing in Ashland since 1988, with a specialty in life passages and trauma recovery. She teaches and performs Playback Theatre, improvisational theatre based on audience stories. She facilitates Zegg Forum, a group process that values authenticity and aliveness. With the death of her mother last year, she immersed herself in a process of exploring end of life issues, loss and grief through literature, media and ritual. Judy attended her first Death Cafe this year. It was so meaningful that she was motivated to become a facilitator for the Ashland Death Cafe.
Judith is a psycho-spiritual, Jungian oriented depth psychologist particularly concerned
with making peace with one’s inner depths and learning to love ones self unconditionally,
as the way to live fully and prepare for conscious dying. She says, “Death, has presented itself to me viewing my great grandmother lying in her casket in her darkened living room, hearing my grandfather before he died say he was hearing the angels sing, brushing my Mother’s hair moments after she had died, and sitting with my brother as he released his last breath. I am a student of this Great Mystery."
Julie was “introduced” to death at birth as her 2 year old sister had died 2 weeks prior. It’s been a lifelong journey that brought fear of death for much of her childhood and recently has turned her towards exploring the vast field of death and dying after attending a Death Walker training last year. She is also honored to be part of the Hevre Kadisha for many years. She is studying dream therapy and teaches yoga, facilitates constellation groups, dream circles and loves bringing people together. Ashland and this beloved community have been her home for over 20 years.
As a chaplain, Anam Cara mentor, poet and artist, Anya has the ceremonial sensibility to create sacred space for the ailing, the dying and grieving ones by attuning to their essence rather than a diagnosis, story or persona. She honors all beings great and small embodying reverence, gratitude, good humor and a great trust in life, with a knowing that the universe makes no mistakes. As a bridge between dimensions, she agrees with Rumi: "Our death is our wedding with eternity." She celebrates life with a deep understanding of love inside loss and gratitude for the delicate presence of Spirit.
Moved by people’s willingness to speak about death and share from a place of depth and vulnerability, Mira was drawn to the Ashland Death Cafe. She spent two years as a hospice volunteer and has been in service to friends who desired home death ceremonies. She is honored to be a part of the local Hevre Kadisha. As a compassionate teacher, mentor and guide, Mira creates ceremonial space for deep healing and transformation including sacred travel pilgrimages. She has been a group facilitator for over 25 years. Her life is about depth and mystery which she explores through her personal relationships, community and being in service. She has lived in Ashland for 20 years.
Hayriya Heidi Hansen
Born on Halloween this ‘good witch’ seeks to uplift and empower individuals struggling with life threatening diseases. Through her Compassionate Care business she gently coaches, supports and honors each person and family with their unique life and death challenges.
Additionally, Hayriya has adult adoptee support groups and meditation circles in Santa Cruz, Williams and Ashland. Her enthusiasm, honesty, and positive approach to life and death is palpable and infectious. Sitting at the bedside of dying people for over fifteen years, Hayriya is a private End of Life Doula and also volunteers with Southern Oregon Friends of Hospice at Celia’s House.
Estevan is an Arizona native happy to be among the trees in Oregon. Before moving to Ashland with his partner Kristen and their canine sidekick Khloe, Estevan facilitated retreats for men and their high-school aged sons. When he discovered ADC, he fell in love with the open dialogue and group contemplation of death. Since then he has felt called to help to open more conversation around death in our community. He also loves and hiking and his connection to nature is central to his interest in life, death, and the connection between matter and consciousness. He is passionate about creating healthy relationships and sharing conversation around these topics so that we may live happier lives rich with meaning. When he’s not helping entrepreneurs improve their marketing Estevan can be found clipping blackberries, doing yoga or listening to books.
Ian Luepker is a naturopathic physician with a special interest in palliative and hospice care. As a hospice volunteer thirty years ago, Ian began to recognize that at the end of life there is often a 'window of healing' that opens for both the individual who is dying, and for the friends and family supporting and caring for that person. Taking a holistic approach that considers mental, emotional, physical, social and spiritual suffering, Dr. Luepker offers a form of consciousness medicine called Ketamine-Assisted Therapy (KAT) to support people with treatment resistant depression, anxiety, and end-of-life suffering. By regularly contemplating death and impermanence through meditation and open discussion, Ian amplifies his gratitude for life and continues to fine-tune his search for meaning.
Lily Myers Kaplan
We are a community-based collaboration of volunteers committed to regularly providing opportunities to support open conversation and share resources about death, dying and how to make the most out of life.
We are currently offering Death Cafés four times a year.
At each Death Café, we offer small circles of 7-8 attendees with a facilitator to encourage participant-driven exploration.
We have been asked to offer more support. We want to encourage your own exploration of topics that interest you. You can find a starting point of a small selection of the possible resources and readings on our Resources page