PO Box 1216, Crestone, CO 81131 informedfinalchoices@gmail.com

Life Cycles—Yizkor memorial candle settings by artist Shahna Lax

 Flame tree topaz Forest emerald Alhambra carnelian

Chaim, the Hebrew word for “Life,” is structured in the form of a double plural. Just like yadaim, “hands,” and oznaim, “ears.” (And yes, mayim, “water,” has the same form). The single word for LIFE carries an intrinsic implication of two lives. Does it perhaps imply an internal and external reality? Does it speak to this life and a life hereafter?

These are the thoughts that circulate as I’ve been working on Yizkor candle settings.

Mishlei (Proverbs) 20:27 speaks of the soul: Ner Havaya Nishmat Adam—“The candle of Havaya is the soul of a human being.” In our tribal tradition, consequently, a candle has come to symbolize a soul. The yahrzeit candle brings the memory of a fragile life to the fore and accompanies that memory with the recognition of the continued life, in whatever form, of that beloved soul.

So, I have begun creating these Yizkor candle settings—a simple concept that provides a place setting for that memory candle with a kind of meditative focus that reinforces life. Made from copper and cedar, they are a small addition to the world of hidur mitzvah –“Beautification of the Connective Tissue between ourselves and the Source of our being.”



Crestone End of Life Project Registration Party Set for June 24

By Gussie Fauntleroy

If you’ve attended one of the beautifully sacred open-air cremations facilitated by the Crestone End of Life Project (CEOLP), you may have said to yourself, “If I die,” (see how we tend to think?) “that’s the kind of send-off I’d like.” But CEOLP can only provide its services for area residents who have registered with the organization and whose completed papers are on file with CEOLP at the time of the registrant’s death.

The easiest way to register is to come to a CEOLP registration party. All the paperwork is there, a notary public is available for the required notarized pages, and CEOLP volunteers are on hand to answer questions. The next semi-annual registration party is set for Saturday, June 24, from 10 am to 1pm at Bob’s Café, next to the hardware store and across from the Crestone Mercantile in downtown Crestone. Tea and snacks will be provided. A $10 donation to CEOLP is requested for copying and filing costs, and there is a $10 fee (total) for the notarized pages, payable directly to the notary.

Also available to pick up will be the “5 Wishes” pamphlet, which can help guide your thinking and choices in medical, emotional, and spiritual end-of-life issues; and Colorado Hospital Association Patient’s Rights pamphlets, in English and Spanish. These two pamphlets are available free, thanks to a Saguache County Sales Tax Grant to Informed Final Choices, CEOLP’s sister organization dedicated to educational outreach. The pamphlets are not part of the CEOLP registration packet. But they are extremely useful in planning advance directives and stimulating important communication with family members, notes CEOLP founder Stephanie Gaines.

The value of advance directives and communicating your wishes with family and loved ones is stressed in a May 10 New York Times article, “We’re Bad at Death. Can We Talk?” by Dhruv Khullar, MD, a resident physician at Massachusetts General Hospital. Here are important excerpts from that article:

“Two interventions have consistently been shown to help patients live their final days in accordance with their wishes: earlier conversations about their goals and greater use of palliative care services, which emphasize symptom control and greater psychological and spiritual well-being—and which recognize that longer survival is only part of what patients want.

“Patients who engage in advance care planning are less likely to die in the hospital or to receive futile intensive care. Family members have fewer concerns and experience less emotional trauma if they have the opportunity to talk about their loved one’s wishes. And earlier access to palliative care has consistently been linked to fewer symptoms, less distress, better quality of life—and sometimes longer lives.”

Looking ahead to the reality of mortality is important for all of us, at any stage of life. Which is why CEOLP provides services like the registration party, to make it easy to complete and file your registration paperwork if open-air cremation is the form of disposition you want. As Stephanie says, “There are seven days in the week, and someday is not one of them!”

For more information, call Denise at 256-4644, Lorraine at 937-7802 or visit informedfinalchoices.org and look under NEWS. A link to the full New York Times article quoted above is also available on informedfinalchoices.org. In addition, CEOLP will have an information booth at the Town of Crestone’s July 4 celebration. Come visit us!

UPCOMING EVENTS: Contemplative Retreat Day and Memorial Celebration

CEOLP/IFC will be holding its annual Contemplative Retreat for volunteers in March, at the beautiful Dragon Mountain Temple retreat site. The date has not been determined yet, but will most likely be either the first or third Sunday in March.

The day begins with an optional meditation in the ‘kiva’ zendo that is followed by ‘coffee-klatch’ welcoming. The morning proceeds with a talk or presentation followed by discussion. It has been suggested that we use a TedTalk ‘What really matters at the end of life’ by BJ Miller. BJ is a medical doctor focused on end of life/ palliative care and former director of the San Francisco Zen Hospice.

After a lunch break we will have a short period of meditation followed by a contemplative exercise. The day will close with a final sharing with participants before proceeding to the cremation site for the memorial celebration.

The memorial celebration is open to the entire community. During the ceremony we read the name of each person cremated at the site, as well as the names of those who were cremated in Crestone before CEOLP was established. We offer juniper for each and thank them for making the cremation site sacred and for blessing our service and lives with their presence. The ceremony generally takes place at 3pm.

Informed Final Choices and Crestone End of Life Project Accomplishments for 2016

Photo by Ted Tevye
  • Both organizations received Saguache County Sales Tax Grants: IFC was awarded $2500 towards creating a new website (this one), and CEOLP was awarded $1000 for maintaining and improving the cremation site.
  • Hosted two Death Cafes
  • Sponsored three public film screenings: ‘Speaking of Dying’; ‘Open-Air’, and ‘Lady Ganga: Nilsa’s Story
  • Hosted two CEOLP REGISTRATION parties
  • Offered two Art & Dying day-long workshops
  • Welcomed the Evergreen Montessori School for their second annual tour and discussion at the site
  • Hosted a Tibetan Buddhist practice retreat, attended by 15 out-of-town participants.
  • Stephanie Gaines, Founder-Director of IFC/CEOLP, gave a short presentation to a group of 125 people attending a retreat in Crestone
  • Held two volunteer work days at the cremation site
  • Organized a day-long contemplative retreat for volunteers
  • Hosted the annual CEOLP memorial service at the site, recalling and honoring all those who have consecrated the site by requesting the services of CEOLP
  • Served two cremations, the most recent attended by more than 250 guests

Throughout the year, CEOLP/IFC holds a monthly open meeting at the Little Shepherd Fellowship Hall, on the second Wednesday of the month. More than 20 people consistently attend each meeting.

This year, the Crestone Eagle published several feature articles on IFC and CEOLP.

Both CEOLP and IFC receive numerous (more than 100 this year) queries from around the country about our services in general and more specific questions on end-of-life issues.

To date, there are approximately 150 people registered with CEOLP.