“I have been trying to figure out for years how to come to terms with death and what lies ahead, and to somehow prepare myself.  Your presentation and your Seven Practices is exactly what I need to get me started thinking and accepting so I can be there for my folks and others and find the positive.” – Maureen Skuban, McHenry, Illinois

“Students said they gained so much from your presentation in relation to acceptance and knowing what to do to assist others. Hearts were opened and minds expanded.” – Louis Silverstein, PhD, Columbia University

“Your talk was so gracious, funny, and warm–you endeared yourself to the audience and made death sound like something to enjoy, not dread. Quite a trick…” – Margaret Van Every

Death and dying are woefully under-discussed in our culture. Ms. Downs’ presentations are a thoughtful, intelligent, story-rich, often humorous way to get the dialogue started. Her topics range from death-denial in our culture, the nature of dying, Advance Care Planning, facing death while embracing life, the Death with Dignity movement, and the crucial need for change in our attitudes, ethics and practices so we can reclaim dying as a part of living that is as sacred to all of life as is birth.

Presentations range in length from 30 minutes to 2 hours and have been designed to either stand alone or be presented as a series. Ms. Downs is also available for keynote presentations and conference sessions, as well as less formal talks.

Oh, Just Bury Me in the Backyard!

Ms. Downs uses humor and personal stories to talk about death and dying in positive terms, and shares her powerful Seven Practices for people living the end of their lives and their loved ones. This popular and inspiring presentation will help bring peace and meaning to the end-of-life issues we all face.

Making Friends With Death and the Contemporary End-of-Life Experience

A 2-hour Presentation or 4 to 6-hour Workshop

In order to normalize death in a death-denying society, it helps to examine the contemporary end-of-life experience in light of the nature of dying itself. We all will meet death one day – how do we meet it with open arms? Each of these three 2-hour sessions will confront and explore key issues around the end-of-life experience and how to create peace within it. Each session is divided equally into lecture and discussion.

“Having attended your workshop on Making Friends with Death I feel more alive and am more engaged with the people in my life. Thank you for a very helpful experience.” – Judy Tabian

This session examines the value of accepting one’s impermanence, practical preparations for dying, coping with dependence, receiving and giving care, and the physical dying process. We will identify our fears of dying and discuss ways to face them with courage and serenity.

“For everything there is a season. A time to be born and a time to die.” –Ecclesiastes 3:2
Learning to let go of what is familiar, of what makes us who we are, is a practice that will benefit us when the time comes to let go of our bodies and embrace our death. We will recognize the influence of faith and spirituality at end of life and explore how hope and healing are possible through life review, forgiveness, and gratitude.

The modern era of living to an advanced age with chronic illness or in a state of frailty, and of institutionalized death over home death has expanded the field for options at the end of life. You will learn about treatment choices at end-of-life including Do Not Resuscitate, artificial life support, palliative and hospice care, VSED (Voluntarily Stopping Eating and Drinking), legal Physician Aid-In-Dying, euthanasia and self-determination.

The Mysterious Metamorphosis at the End of Life

A 1-hour Presentation

Birth and death are the great mysteries of life, all life. Our culture has only recently restored the sacredness of birth from a lonely medical event to a participatory experience shared by family and community. It is time we acknowledge dying as a “spiritual process with medical implications,” as Gwen London described it. Ms. Downs expands upon her 2016 TEDx talk using the metaphor of the transformation and migration of the Monarch butterfly as a theme to explore building awareness of this mysterious process. View her TEDx video, “The Mysterious Metamorphosis at the End of Life”

Palliative and Hospice Care: Facing death and embracing life

A 1-hour presentation

Though more common than ever before, Palliative and Hospice Care – compassionate, holistic, team-driven comfort care for the very sick, the dying, and their caregivers – are widely misunderstood. How else to explain why the hospice benefit is available for six months or longer, yet close to 40% of hospice patients are served for less than one week – despite some patients actually improving with hospice care!

In this presentation Ms. Downs explains the who, what, when, where and why of palliative and hospice care treatments.

View a related video, “Being a Hospice Volunteer Can Change your life”.

Understanding the Death with Dignity Movement

Ms. Downs shares information about and insights into the current social revolution to improve choices and care at the end of life, including advance care planning, VSED (voluntarily stopping eating and drinking), legalized physician-aid-in dying, euthanasia, and dementia decisions. You will laugh, you will cry, and you will never look at dying quite the same again.

View a video of this presentation.

The Chrysalis Room: Creating Sacred Space for Dying

During her years as a hospice volunteer and the six years her mother lived in a long-term care community, Ms. Downs was able to observe how hundreds of nursing home residents lived the end of their lives and how they died. Most were sent to the hospital, many died in shared rooms at the nursing home where families could not be present with any comfort. Quality of death was low.

These experiences motivated Ms. Downs to conceive the Chrysalis Room concept. In this presentation she shares her design ideas to create sacred space, system changes to support the resident as well as family and staff, compassionate practices for care of the dying, and new, meaningful rituals for end-of-life and after death.