Interview with Lee Warren on End-of-Life Paperwork & Literacy Workshop through Earthaven Ecovillage
Transcript of Interview with Lee Warren
Courtney Brooke (CB): Hi folks, I’m here with Lee Warren. Hi Lee.
Lee: Hi Courtney Brooke.
CB: Good to be with you and we’re here to talk about an exciting upcoming offering through Earthaven Ecovillage that Lee is offering with helping us do our end of life paperwork. So yeah I just had a few questions for you Lee. One is could you tell us why you’re wanting to offer this beautiful work through Earthaven Ecovillage.
Lee: Yes, thank you, um…So from the spring of 2016 to the fall of 2018 we had five deaths at our ecovillage, Three of those folks died at home, all five of those folks had home funerals and home burials and some kind of, you know, magical evolutionary programming kicked in in so many of us and we harmoniously created uh processes for both caring for the dying, tending to the dead, and tending to our own grief in in some of the most profound community experiences I’ve ever had in 25 years of community.
And so many of us came out of that experience over the course of those two and a half years pretty transformed and realized that we wanted to offer the world some taste of that.
And because of my background in in finance and economics and sort of systems organization design, I really wanted to marry the tenderness of that process with helping people step by step go through uh thinking about their intentions and their end of life paperwork.
So it’s this interesting combination of the left brain and the right brain and we we really blend that in a powerful way during this workshop and that really all sort of grew out of a lived experience of of being with the dying.
CB: Wow that is beautiful. So could you speak to just how the course is formatted, like what what will we be getting out of the course?
Lee: Yeah after a series of years doing this I’ve really come to a format that seems to work pretty well for adult learners.
So the workshop is eight full hours and we structure it in two half days. So we do four hours and then a week later we do another four hours. So we have a week in between and I find that this topic, because it’s slightly taboo in our culture and a lot of people don’t touch this topic very often in their lives, there there’s a lot of integration and processing time that’s needed and so we really create a powerful container where people feel safe to explore and digest and discuss and contemplate and get inspired about possibilities. So that takes a little time and I really find that this is the best of all formats for this for this particular workshop.
CB: Wow beautiful. So I hear there will be some integration of just the process of getting getting cozy with the fact that we are mortal and that our life will come to an end and making some peace with that and then also actually getting down to some practical filling out paperwork that will make that transition better more easeful more clear.
CB: Yeah, go ahead.
Lee: Well my intentions for the workshop really, you know at a fundamental level, are to introduce people to resources to increase our death and dying literacy and ability to articulate um and again as I mentioned contemplation and inspiration, but also to start some, you know to really start some paperwork, we have about four or five pieces of paperwork that we’re starting.
Some people finish it, some people actually identify some next steps and get a checklist and figure out what they’re going to do by what date.
And part of the beauty of the collective in this context is that we create a buddy system for accountability and support so that they don’t just sit in a pile on your desk but they actually get done by the dates that people want them to get done.
And then even more exciting for me from a collective perspective is how do we build a death literate community, how do we create comfort for this conversation, and how do we build, you know, how do we build in the long term a structure of support where we can actually help each other through not only the conversation but through the dying process.
So all of that we’re having conversations about and we’re wading pretty deeply into.
CB: Well that sounds very rich Lee. Could you share with us a little bit about like what happens when someone does or doesn’t and your experience in your life like when someone has done this preparation and then when someone has not done this preparation. Like how how that that is a seed that gets watered for different experiences.
Lee: Yeah that’s a really great question.
I find that when people actually have spent some time in their life before they’re dying to contemplate these things that they actually can go into the dying process with a little more ease, Right?
They can um they can have a they’re more likely to be able to have what’s called a good death. And how I define that is how one of my mentors defines it, which is a good death is walking towards it.
So if we’ve got some things in order we can actually settle in and surrender to the pretty sacred process of dying that not only is our process but the process of everybody around us who loves us and that can be a very liminal magical experience especially if we can put down the physical world because we’ve sort of crossed our t’s and dotted our i’s.
You know it’s never black or white or one thing or the other and death can be challenging particularly if it’s a painful death process but my experience is if we have decided to um put our intentions down it can pave the way for a process that can be pretty miraculous and and I would even venture to say beyond conscious, potentially joyful potentially ecstatic.
I think we’re we’re pioneering these realms, but my sense is preparation paves the way for those things.
And on the on the opposite side, you know, um people who maybe aren’t as prepared (and you know death can go in any mysterious ways so it’s sometimes people don’t do anything and they have a fabulous death and they do all this preparation and they have a challenging death so it’s not cut and dry) but I think one example that I can think of is that someone had actually about a month to live, a dear friend had a month to live and the doctors, the oncologists told him, “oh you have a year or two,” and he didn’t get to his paperwork and then um who was the beneficiary on one of his insurance insurance policies was an ex-partner, an ex-marriage partner and that created a whole bunch of infighting between the family and other people and it was the post-death experience for the people who were left was agonizing and painful and it went to court and it was lots of high drama and I don’t imagine that that was helpful for any of his beloveds to really sink in and be able to process his death in a pure way because there was so much conflict around it. So those are just some examples. It doesn’t have to go those ways but it is really nice to get things in order because as we do we leave instructions for the living and when the living have instructions they’re very interested in carrying out the wishes of the dying and the dead and it can create a lot of harmony and good will.
CB: Wow that is really beautiful. I just wanted to share that I’ve also gone through my own paperwork for my my process and my paperwork isn’t complete but um it wasn’t because I was sick or because I was anything just because it came my way and came into my awareness and I and I did that and it was it was a really rich experience that I would highly recommend. Also to just really gave me like more life, you know, like i was being like you know, i grew up in a culture, we all grew up in a culture where it’s like “oh just don’t talk about that,” we just put that somewhere else. We just think that we’re going to live forever and have all these you know buy things that keep us young or whatever that’s gonna be like and yeah it was really rewarding to just like “how would I like to die and and where would i like to be?” and to be able to voice it to my beloveds, even to my mother and to my friends. It brought a lot of intimacy into my my life and my relationships.
Lee: Yeah really death does open a portal to the mystery and talking about death opens a portal to the mystery I think even in our eight hours together something really mysterious does open and we we have this comprehensive overview but it’s really quite a deep dive and I think people are changed because of our time together because of touching on this topic and swimming in those mysteries for a time together.
CB: Wow, well I’m feeling so excited and grateful that you’re going to bring these offerings to Earthaven and be offering them through an online offering through earthaven.org and that’s where people can go to find more information and to register and these offerings are up and coming so is there anything else you’d like to share or touch in on before we go?
Lee: Just join us for the journey, it’s you know it’s a lot of resources a lot of focus, but also playful, heartful, and frankly fun.
CB: Thank you so much Lee for helping us take care of this sacred threshold of our lives called death.
Lee: Thank you Courtney Brooke.