Searching for Fire in the Belly

I spent the first half of March reading proposals from folks across Oregon and SW Washington who applied to be conversation facilitators for Oregon Humanities and Cambia Health Foundation's upcoming statewide series, Talking about Dying. When Oregon Humanities posted the job description in February, I didn't know what to expect. While our organization has years of experience in discussion-based programming, the topic of end-of-life decision making is a new venture for us.

So I was amazed, encouraged, and humbled when we received dozens upon dozens of proposals. Beyond the sheer volume, one thing stood out: the astonishing experience and caliber of the individuals applying. I read applications from hospice nurses, gerontologists, and physicians, as well as chaplains, academics, and death educators; clinical counselors and advance care planners also applied. The enthusiastic dedication of this group to helping make space for others to engage in discussions about death and dying was inspiring.

Inspiring, yet challenging, because from the many qualified applicants, Oregon Humanities had to ultimately select a team of six facilitators—no small task at all.

My colleagues Adam Davis, Mikaela Schey, and I interviewed an impressive pool of applicants from across the region. The conversations were rich. I heard stories of personal loss and sadness, lifelong commitment to helping patients transition to end-of-life care, and a deep passion and regard—as one applicant described, “a fire in the belly”—for addressing death, dying, and end-of-life issues with an open mind and an open heart.

Throughout my conversations with applicants, I wrote down words that struck a chord with me: conviction, private, imaginative, controversial, taboo, gratitude, courage, regret, chaos, validation, and commemoration. These are just some of the words that will help guide the conversations when Oregonians come together later this year to think and talk about the cultural, spiritual, intellectual, and emotional factors that influence end-of-life decisions. They are words that only begin to get at the complexity of the subject. And to me, the differences in these words represent the diversity and depth of the pool of applicants we interviewed; we really couldn't go wrong with our final team of facilitators.

In the end, though, we had to make some hard decisions. But we are excited to announce the eight individuals from across Oregon (see, we couldn't even get down to a team of six!) who will lead our 2015–16 series of conversations on death, dying, and end-of-life decisions. This team will bring decades of experience and a wealth of perspective to these public conversations.

  •  Andrea Cano (Vancouver/Portland)
  • Bob Daley, Transitions and Caregiver Support Program Coordinator, Benton Hospice Service (Corvallis)
  • Joel Garavaglia-Maiorano, Director of Pastoral Services, Rogue Valley Manor (Medford)
  • Jeff Golden, President and Producer, Immense Possibilities (Ashland)
  • Fred Grewe, Chaplain, Providence Hospice (Medford)
  • Alison Perry, Licensed Professional Counselor and Founder of the Central Oregon Veterans Ranch (Bend)
  • Holly Pruett, Life-Cycle Celebrant and Death Educator (Portland)
  • Jennifer Sasser, Department of Human Sciences Chair and Director of the Gerontology Program, Marylhurst University  Portland) 

I am truly honored to be working with this team, and I am thrilled by the new connections that were made during this application process. I learned about individuals and organizations across Oregon that are leading conversations about death and dying in varied and important ways. I hope for Oregon Humanities' upcoming programs to complement this work and add to the vibrant dialogue that has already begun.

 

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Searching for Fire in the Belly