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pethaven's picture

Pet Haven Cemetery


We are excited to be a part of the PLPA family and have access to new information in order to provide the best service possible to our client familys and their beloved pets. KM

rob treadway's picture

'Death cafes' normalize a difficult, not morbid, topic


"Death cafes," a trend that started in England, are spreading across the USA.

Reposted from USA Today
April 10, 2013

No one wants to talk about death at the dinner table, at a soccer game or at a party, says Lizzy Miles, a social worker in Columbus, Ohio.

But sometimes people need to talk about the "taboo" topic and when that happens, they might not be able to find someone who will listen, she says. "Whenever people hear I'm a hospice worker, they talk to me about death. It doesn't matter if I'm on an airplane, gambling in Las Vegas, or in a grocery store line. I really see firsthand the need to let people talk. It's my gift to others."

Her gift sparked the birth of "death cafes" in the USA, a trend that started in England, is spreading across the USA and is about to take off, she says.

The casual get-togethers are held at coffee shops, restaurants and, on March 30 in Atlanta, at the historic Oakland Cemetery. Hosts are social workers and chaplains — no professional association, philosophy or religion sponsors them, and no one tries to sell anything like coffins or funeral plots.

The concept is really very simple and civilized.

"They're a place to talk about the issues surrounding death while drinking tea and eating delicious cake,'' says Miles, 42.

The Internet is spreading the word. The website was created by Jon Underwood, who held the first cafe in September 2011, in England. He developed the idea from the writings of Bernard Crettaz, a Swiss sociologist who says talking about death leads to authenticity. Since 2011, Underwood says, he's had hundreds of inquiries from the USA, Australia and Canada.

"Death Cafe exists because of a belief that more authenticity is needed in the world,'' Underwood says. "Death denial is an omnipresent feature of Western consumer capitalism."

About 40 people met at the conference room at Oakland Cemetery, broke up into clusters of five to eight people, and talked for several hours. At a typical death cafe, facilitators move about the room and monitor conversations, to identify anyone who might need counseling, pull them aside and tell them where to find help. The cafes are not support groups, says chaplain Mark LaRocca-Pitts, a host of the Oakland Cemetery cafe.

Meetings often start with the question "What brought you here?" he says.

The conversation helped Julie Arms. "My partner doesn't want to talk about dying, especially about my dying, so it gave me a chance to explore ideas with other people," she says. "I found comfort in that."

Arms, a breast cancer survivor, says other participants understood her when she said, "I don't think death is nearly as scary after going through cancer."

"Two other people said the very same thing," she says. "We have come close to death."

Putting the cafe in a cemetery setting seemed natural, says LaRocca-Pitts, and one of the participants is a volunteer there and was able to book the room. "We knew we'd have a large turnout and a coffee shop wouldn't have held us."

Each cafe is different, he says, but talk can center on advance directive planning, physician-assisted dying, funeral arrangements and what happens after death.

Intensive care units are the most difficult places to have those conversations, he says. "As a hospice chaplain, I know people often don't talk about these things until it's a crisis, and there's little comfort in that."

But the gatherings don't draw only people who are worried about dying or those who are grieving. As Underwood noted, they attract people seeking authenticity.

"They're not being morbid,'' he says. "These are people who want to live more fully. They think that by fearing cessation they can't be spiritually alive. The more we talk about dying and what it means about ego and self, the more we add to life."

Underwood credits Miles with starting the cafe movement in the USA. She says very soon death cafes will take on a life of their own.

"At the end of April, I'm presenting the cafe concept at the annual conference of the Association for Death Education and Counseling,'' she says. "Several other death cafe hosts from the USA will also be there.

"I know many of the people attending will find out about it, hear us talking about it and want to start one."


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Bob Fells's picture

Gunning for Gun Control



Gunning for Gun Control

[Note: This essay is one in a continuing series by ICCFA executive director Bob Fells focusing on various issues in our federal government. Although the subjects are political in nature, the approach is bipartisan in outlook, at least so far as that is humanly possible. The goal of each essay is not to persuade the reader to adopt a particular political viewpoint or party, but to illustrate why a knowledge of the system is important to protect our businesses, our homes, and our families.]

For the record, I have never owned any firearms nor did my parents. In fact, the only person in my extended family that I know has guns is a brother-in-law who owns a couple of hunting rifles. My grown son once took me to a shooting range and we rented a 9mm pistol and some ammo. I rather quickly became bored with trying to hit the little paper bulls-eye and invited my son to finish my round or whatever it’s called. I have no philosophical or religious opposition to owning firearms and I can appreciate why the American sense of self-reliance includes provisions for self-defense with implements that go bang. That said, the debate in Congress over gun control, what weapons should be banned, what background checks should be universal, and who decides all this, has deteriorated into a form of demagoguery that makes a mockery of the very issue it seeks to regulate.

This has been a horrific week between the Boston Marathon bombings and the explosion in a Texas fertilizer plant. Many Americans, including me, are experiencing PTSS-like flashbacks of 911 and it can be unnerving. Some have said that we have become too complacent as the events of 911 have receded into the mists of Time. But timing can be everything so it was with some concern that the advocates of federal gun control legislation found that this week is a bad time to vote on Americans giving up their firearms. America has been a gun-toting nation since the Minutemen of 1776 and probably before that. The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution safeguards the right of all citizens to bear arms, but it doesn’t say what kind.

The fact is that tens of millions of Americans keep firearms and always have. It is significant to note that very few of them have ever abused their Constitutional right to bear arms but we are being told relentlessly by the political classes that gun ownership is the common denominator behind the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut; Aurora Colorado; Virginia Tech, and many other places where these types of massacres have occurred. That’s like claiming that a book of matches caused the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 (Mrs. O’Leary’s cow has since been officially and legally exonerated) so let’s lock up all the matches.

The true and rather narrow common denominator behind all these mass shootings has been mental illness. All of the gunmen were mentally deranged and yet this obvious fact has been stunningly ignored in all the debate and tears shed on the subject. I mean that NOBODY is talking about mental health, better detection and intervention before the next whacko decides to find a soft target, i.e., a location where people are unlikely to have firearms to shoot back. You may wonder why, so at the risk of sounding cynical, I have to tell you that “gun control” is a lot easier for politicians to champion than advocating for better mental health services. And the insurance companies dislike the subject of mental health – just check your health policy to see how little coverage they provide for mental health claims. If you get a physical disease you probably have decent coverage, but have a mental illness and you’re pretty much on your own, brother.

Also, promoting more effective treatment of the actual cause of gun violence doesn’t lend itself to catchy slogans. It is much easier to tout, “If guns are outlawed, then only outlaws will have guns.” You might point out that if only outlaws have guns, then law-abiding people will be defenseless and ready victims, but you will be viewed with suspicion. The unspoken elephant in the room that politicians don’t want to mention is this: law-abiding citizens don’t need guns because the government is here to protect them. That loud rushing noise you just heard is the public running out to buy guns because they finally learned the real reason for pushing gun control: more power to the state. The first thing that every totalitarian government has ever done once in power is to disarm the population “for their own safety.”

We also don’t hear anything said about providing better gun owner education so weapons will be properly secured and tragic accidents will be avoided. Why? Because this approach does nothing to empower government. Besides, what kind of slogan is, “If all Americans had guns, then outlaws would think twice before trying to victimize them?” Nah.

Even as a non-gun owning American, I benefit from a robust application of the Second Amendment. You see, the bad guys don’t know whether I am armed or not, but gun control will go a long way to shift the odds in the bad guys’ favor. And it’s no coincidence that the nutjobs know to get at people where the government already prohibits them from carrying firearms like schools and movie theaters. “Crazy like a fox” is an old expression that’s quite apt here. So whatever your position on gun control, from total confiscation to unfettered Second Amendment rights, the next time you hear the politicians holding forth on this subject, ask yourself why they’re not talking about mental health issues and improving firearms education. They really do have their reasons and the omissions aren’t coincidental.


Children's Book about Grief


  I am so excited to announce that I have finished writing my new children's book, Sadie & Sammy: A Tail of Love, Loss, and Friendship.  This book is based on my experiences at my cemetery with my certified bereavement therapy dog, Sadie.  We will be at the convention today and tomorrow with copies of the book!  Stop by and say hello to Sadie!  Sadie is attending the convention with me to accept the KIP Award in Best Practice for our work with her! See you all there!

KIP Award!


Hi everyone! My name is Sadie! I work at Trinity Memorial Gardens and Friendship Pet Memorial Park in Maryland.  I am so excited to be traveling to Tampa tomorrow to receive the KIP Award in Best Practices! This will be my first plane trip and I'm excited to be sitting in the first class cabin! Please look for me at the convention and stop to say Hi! I will also be bringing copies of my new children's book, "Sadie & Sammy: A Tail of Love, Loss, and Friendship." I really love working with families and especially children. My book is focused on helping children deal with grief and is based on my experiences and the friendships I have formed with families and children in my work at Trinity Memorial Gardens. This book will help children understand grief and bring a smile to the faces of children and adults alike!
Bob Fells's picture

Immigration Reform and Us - and U.S.



Immigration Reform and Us – and U.S.

[Note: This essay is one in a continuing series by ICCFA executive director Bob Fells focusing on various issues in our federal government. Although the subjects are political in nature, the approach is bipartisan in outlook, at least so far as that is humanly possible. The goal of each essay is not to persuade the reader to adopt a particular political viewpoint or party, but to illustrate why an understanding of the system is important to protect our businesses, our homes, and our families.]

Bright and early this Sunday morning I received an email from one of the most powerful senators in Congress today.  It was a generic email but through the wonders of technology it was addressed to me personally as though Senator X had nothing better to do on this day than to write to me. He’s not one of my favorites but the purpose of his email was laudable. He wanted me to sign his petition for immigration reform. Being in favor of immigration reform is like being in favor of clean air. Who could be against it? It’s how we get there that’s tricky, starting with defining what “there” means.

This email reminded me that ICCFA members should be contacting their congressional representatives and senators with constituent input. Frankly, that’s a civic duty and shame on us who don’t bother. Whatever shape immigration reform takes, it will affect all of us on several different levels. From a strictly business viewpoint it will determine who are our customers and our employees. Today with all members of Congress being easily accessible to their constituents by email, communicating with our federal legislators has never been easier. The problem  – at least on immigration reform – is what do we say? My morning email from Senator X actually gave me some useful ideas.

The petition he urged me to sign was so generic that I couldn’t imagine why anybody would NOT sign it. But that was the problem. It urged Congress to resolve our immigration problems, including the much vaunted “pathway to citizenship,” without shedding any light on just how we do that. So here are some thoughts in trying to determine what we want to say in guiding our legislators in that genuinely personal email we send them.

First, as politicians always seem to do, is their use of loosey-goosey terminology. I should write a dictionary on these terms. “Revenue enhancement” means tax increases; taking “collective action” means more government regulations; reducing a proposed increase in benefits is called a “spending cut.” An illegal alien is now called an “undocumented worker.” Personally, I don’t like the term “alien” - it reminds me of sci-fi movies starring Sigourney Weaver.  To be at least consistent we should be calling unlicensed drivers “undocumented motorists.” At any rate, a term both accurate and humane needs to be coined that covers extra-legal and often desperate émigrés who are mainly seeking life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

If we operated our businesses with this type of smoke and mirrors, all we would have left is a lot of stale air and illusions. The term “immigration reform” should refer to the process of admitting residents of other countries who wish to become residents of this country. This really is a separate issue from what my friendly senator wants me to sign. The challenge facing us is the reportedly twelve million people who are already living in the U.S. They are not strictly speaking “immigrants” because many have been here for years and this situation begs the question of who exactly is an immigrant. It reminds me of what Will Rogers (who was part Cherokee) said to members of the elite, “Your ancestors may have come over on the “Mayflower” but mine were on the shore waiting to meet them.”

What the politicians really mean is “citizenship reform.” There is something distinctly un-American about the idea of rounding up hundreds, thousands, indeed millions of people who have established lives and families in this country and expelling them from our borders. And there is something distinctly American – it used to be called Yankee Ingenuity – about figuring out a win/win solution.

So in the spirit of providing substantive and constructive comments to our friends in Congress, let me suggest some comments on the “path to citizenship.” As I understand the proposals, illegal, uh, undocumented workers will have to be forthcoming and identify themselves to the authorities. They will not be deported or imprisoned for their presence here but they will be assessed a monetary penalty for their unlawful entry into this country. I have no idea how much money this will be. Then they will be required to straighten out their tax status by filing past due income tax returns and paying their back taxes and accrued interest. Again, I haven’t heard how many years back that covers. The IRS generally has a three-year limit if there’s no indication of fraud. Where there is fraud, IRS can go back as far it wants to. So will the failure of undocumented workers to file tax returns be considered fraudulent and if so, will that require another type of amnesty to stay on the path to citizenship (and out of jail)?   

Let’s say the answer to these questions is in the affirmative, so a person steps forward, owns up to their status, and wants to straighten out everything to avoid prosecution, deportation, and eventually become a U.S. citizen. Time out for a reality check. Where do these individuals get the money to pay the penalty for unlawful entry, for back taxes and interest? I’m not the first one to raise this issue but I haven’t heard anything said about the businesses that employed and paid these undocumented workers over the years. Will they too be given amnesty for hiring illegal aliens? (Apparently it’s OK to use that term when speaking of American business owners). I am going to suggest that both amnesty programs are mutually necessary otherwise I can see situations where the individual wants to sign on for the citizen pathway only to be threatened with firing by his employer who will be liable for fines and penalties as a result.

I’ll leave aside the issue of the administration of such amnesty programs but it has to be huge. How to keep track of millions of people participating in a federal program that currently does not exist? I don’t know but it has to be expensive. Perhaps the spirit of Yankee Ingenuity can be harnessed to earmark the moneys paid for back taxes and interest and penalties for the new bureaucracy that will have to be created.  But once again our government would be doing what it does best: spending money it has not collected on a program where the expenses have been underestimated.  

The bottom line: something has to be done and by now I hope I’ve demonstrated why you don’t want to leave the politicians unmonitored to develop their own pathway to citizenship. So when you email your members of Congress (I didn’t say “if” but “when” as in right now), I suggest you stress three guiding principles: 1.) except for cases involving violent crimes, deportation is unworkable and impractical; 2.) the pathway to citizenship must spell out how individuals make payments for their back taxes, interest and penalties, and how the administration of the program will be funded; and 3.)  amnesty should be extended to employers of undocumented workers seeking citizenship.

Most of our politicians see future voters and taxpayers at the end of this process, so avoiding a certain amount of cynicism over their concerns is not easy. But to keep the real issue in perspective, when I say “individuals,” I’m referring to people who are destined to become our future customers and our future colleagues at work. So I’ll be responding to Senator X but not quite in the generalized and vague way he was hoping. You should too.

P.S.  After posting this, I indeed contacted my two senators through the email facilities of and also my representative at Your zip code is your key to entry because no member of Congress wants to hear from anybody except his or her constitiuents. That's not unreasonable but my Congressman insisted on my entering my NINE-digit zip code. I felt like I had to pass a quiz to write him. All three members require that I select the subject matter and I specified "Immigration." After sending my message to one of my senators, his website helpfully announced that it was showing me my senator's statements on this topic. OK, good - but then nothing was listed. Again, we all really need to communicate with these people!


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