Members receive an annual newsletter from the alliance for end of life planning. Click here for a printable, pdf version of this 2016 newsletter.
Newsletter pdf Featuring:
The spring FCAH Annual Meeting is rapidly
approaching and this year’s gathering
promises to be as inspiring and as soulful as
2015’s! The Funeral Consumers Alliance of
Shanti has been at the forefront of a growing national movement to enhance the quality of life for persons living with life-threatening or chronic illnesses by providing volunteer-based emotional and practical support. His ten books and numerous articles include Sometimes My Heart Goes Numb: Love and Caregiving in a Time of AIDS and Stress and Survival: The Emotional Realities of Life Threatening Illness.
Dr. Charles Garfield serves as Clinical Professor of Psychology in the Dept. of Psychiatry at the University of California School of Medicine at San Francisco (UCSF).
A Fellow of the American Psychological Association, he is currently a Visiting Scholar at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. As a computer analyst and leader of a team of engineers, scientists and support staff on the Apollo 11 project, our first lunar landing, Dr. Garfield was part of a group of empowered people who went far beyond their previous results to legendary achievement. It was his work on the first moon landing project that led to his discovery of the dynamics of peak performance and into the frontiers of exceptional end of life care.
The FCAH Annual Meeting will be held at the new Eureka Campus of
Hospice of Humboldt located at 3327 Timber Fall Court, Eureka, CA 95503.
“Everybody is a story. When I was a child, people sat around kitchen tables and told their stories. We don't do that so much anymore. Sitting around the table tellingstories is not just a way of passing time. It is the way the wisdom gets passed along.The stuff that helps us to live a life worth remembering.”― Rachel Naomi Remen, MD
As my first year of tenure in leading the Board of Directors for the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Humboldt draws to a close, I find my attention centered on the transformative power of story. We are all familiar with stories of love, heartbreak, inspiration, tragedy, suffering, intimacy, betrayal, resilience and healing. Then there are the stories of adventure and unbelievable heroism. Stories, when told well and from the heart, can help us to find our authentic voice, empowering us through their perceived wisdom to find clarity and courage—reminding us that the archetypal structure of story is essential to being human and our humanity. Story can tell us who we are, where we are located as a person and a society, as well as illuminate what no longer serves us.
Together, our FCAH community began the celebration of our 50th year with the deep wisdom of a story chronicling a daughter’s journey in caring for her parents at the end of life. In this narrative, Katy Butler shared the heartbreak, intimacy and suffering of attempting to navigate a culture privileging the over-medicalization of our aging and dying. Yes, “everybody is a story” and this heroic journey between parents and their child illuminated how we too might encounter and then find our own way through the the labyrinth of technology meeting the organic process that is death. How then is this story transformative? Every story told must have a listener and more importantly this listener must be a witness, and to be a witness is to be a generous listener.
Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen describes being a being a generous listener in this way: “Most of us do not recognize the power of our attention and few of us can listen generously. As we listen we become busy considering things that concern us: Do we agree with what is being said or not? Do we believe it? We listen competitively: What does this say about the person who is speaking and what does it say about me? Is this person more educated than I am? Smarter? More fortunate? More competent? And of course if we are health professionals, we listen to diagnose and to fix.”
It is my experience that even if we are not health professionals, our competitive listening drives us to fix rather witness. Perhaps if we can practice our generous listening in community, we may witness each other's stories in a fresh way, with heart and dignity. In so doing, we may find that we are not only transformed by each other’s stories but are working together — in community — to transform the greater story about how we live, age and die. This year’s FCAH Annual Meeting will host another master storyteller, Dr. Charles Garfield, whose own journey is transcendent and inspiring. Please join us and bring some friends!
“Storytelling awakens us to that which is real. Honest . . . It transcends the individual . . . Those things that are most personal are most general, and are, in turn, most trusted. Stories bind . . . They are basic to who we are. It maintains a stability within that community, providing common knowledge as to how things are, how things should be -- knowledge based on experience. These stories become the conscience of the group. They belong to everyone.”– Terry Tempest Williams, Pieces of White Shell
Gina Belton, President
Funeral Consumers Alliance of Humboldt
By Karen Roemke, MA
The Funeral Consumers Alliance of Humboldt is 50 years old. It is, and always has been, led by a small but dedicated group, has never had any paid staff, and yet maintains a 24/7 on-call presence. It is my opinion that the survival and success of this impressive group can be attributed to one amazing woman, Wilma Johnston. She would not approve of this tribute, since she was not one to sing her own praises, but for once, I will have the last word.
In the 1960s and 1970s many groups were formed to promote social change, and Humboldt County benefitted from this time of activism. What was then called the Humboldt Funeral Society (HFS) grew out of the awareness that the funeral industry entered into a person’s life at a time of grief and sadness and vulnerability. HFS offered information, support and advocacy. The group successfully negotiated low cost contracts with our local funeral homes for simple services and staffed a phone line for people who needed answers and guidance in the midst of challenging times.
Wilma was that voice on the phone for many years. She gained a depth of knowledge that earned her the recognition in our community as a voice of authority. She became a valued resource for me as I worked with families in need of this information. But she also recognized that her fellow HFS leaders were aging and that the group was at risk of folding for lack of new energy. Many groups closed their doors when they couldn’t continue to grow, but Wilma saw the writing on the wall and would not accept defeat. So she began her search for the next generation. I called Wilma one day to get her advice for a family and before I knew it I was at a meeting and voted onto the Board. At that same meeting two other new members also joined. They had called Wilma to discuss an article about the group in the local news and she invited them over “just to talk”. She was persuasive, she was relentless, and she was successful in her pursuit of new ideas and youthful vigor.
It was a crucial turning point for the organization, and its survival owes thanks to the efforts of Wilma Johnston. I was proud to serve on the Board and continue to support the efforts of what we now call the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Humboldt. Wilma and I developed a deep friendship over the years and my admiration for her never stopped growing. The energy and determination that she brought to her life was matched by the grace and courage and honesty she exhibited as she died. There are many accomplishments she achieved throughout her 90 years, and FCA of Humboldt is one of them.
By Karen Ayers, FNP, and Karen Roemke, MA
The Humboldt Advance Care Planning Coalition sponsored
The Humboldt Advance Care Planning Coalition (HACPC) was recently awarded a grant from the Coalition for Compassionate Care of California (CCCC) to present a seminar to our local faith communities. Seriously ill and dying individuals and their families often turn to their faith community for support during illness and grief. On February 26th, this half-day seminar focused on challenges and lessons learned in supporting and providing spiritual care around the end of life. It also explored methods for engaging individuals and congregations in thinking and planning ahead about end-of-life choices and decisions.
The intended audience was clergy, chaplains, Stephen ministers, Eucharistic ministers, health ministers, parish nurses and others who minister to those who are at the end of life.
The curriculum included:
This event was free to participants and hosted by Hospice of Humboldt at their new Eureka Campus. Please look for other community education events facilitated by the Humboldt Advanced Care Planning Coalition.
By Carl Magruder
The fastest growing category of religious identity in the United States is “spiritual but not religious.” My guess is that on the whole, this movement probably represents progress towards spiritual health and maturity. However, it leaves us without traditional rituals at the time of death. Too often the families I work with have no idea how to do an appropriate memorial for their loved one, where to hold it, or who to have facilitate it. This is often exacerbated by our grief-averse culture wanting memorials to be light and fun, “not a downer,” but a celebration of life.”
Good ritual uses the language of the unconscious, the right brain, and the somatic wisdom of the body. It helps us to transform our consciousness in ways that logic, argument, and the passage of time cannot necessarily do. It behooves us to fully, consciously experience our grief. Mourning is
especially helped by ritual, which hopefully brings elements of meaning, sorrow, gratitude, the big
The making of a ritual from scratch can be profoundly healing for those closest to the deceased,
and I love this creative process. I find that invoking the sacred, and incorporating music and poetry,
help to create an affective experience that touches hearts. There will be mirth and celebration, but
when we are not afraid to go into the place of deep grief, these also come from the depths, and do not
It is also good not to do a one-time ritual, but to have ongoing observations, as the traditional rituals did. Our grief process changes over time, and periodic rituals keep us mindful of our process, so that we can engage fully with this universal experience, and by so doing discover more of our own compassion, gratitude, wisdom and acceptance. Grief, after all, is a sacred teacher.
By Gina Belton, FCAH President
“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
To "count your blessings" is a common phrase we often hear and yet, how often do we actually do
so? To count our blessings is one sure way to develop a constant mind-set of gratitude and in this
way, we may turn a mundane life into a miraculous one. How often do you pause to feel grateful? This heartfelt note is our opportunity at FCAH to pause and offer gratitude for the support from our
Community must be nurtured. It must be cared for, and hosted—I take this privilege of hosting our community of Funeral Consumers Alliance of Humboldt members and those in the greater Humboldt community who support our work very seriously. It is my view that we are partners in the care of those navigating the universal experience of death. When we are able to meet this challenging moment in our lives in community, as community, somehow our burden feels lighter.
Some of these partners contributed in small ways and others in very generous ways. Each and every contribution is deeply appreciated by myself and your Board of Directors.
We would like to take this time to offer up our gratitude to our community business partners who participated in our “FCAH Past Presidents Campaign” to raise funds for the 2015 Annual Meeting when we hosted author and journalist, Katy Butler:
A big thank you goes out to Jan Rowen who led this fundraising campaign and actively solicited and collected their donations.
Generous financial contributions were made by:
And, as always, we are most grateful for the many contributions from our loyal FCAH members. We wouldn't be here without your continued support.
“Real generosity towards the future lies in giving all to the present.”
"What is the definition of a will? ...A dead giveaway."
Active Members of FCA of Humboldt: 1,002 + 489 Inactive Members* = 1,491 Total Members
New Members = 37
* Members that have not provided change of address information.
FCA OF HUMBOLDT PROFIT & LOSS