NHFA Conference 2015

Watch highlights from the October 2015 National Home Funeral Alliance conference in Los Gatos, CA

Lee Webster, President NHFASee all your favorite folks in this 15 minute video from the 2015 National Home Funeral Alliance Conference in Los Gatos, California. Listen to Sara Crews’ beautiful music, hear bits of speeches and talks, including Caitlin Doughty and Katrina Spade, see the founders of NHFA, and all your friends, old and new.

Thanks to NHFA volunteer, Trish Garrigan, who filmed and edited this 15 minute video.

Connect – Confidence – Courage

What a huge success! Thank you to all who came, who spoke, who shared, who participated, who sponsored, and to those who coordinated and made ideas come to life. Check out #NHFA2015 on Twitter @homefunerals and Facebook.

Courage. Confidence. Connections. That was the goal, and we created an event to build your own capacities so that together we sustain and fortify the home funeral movement.

  • CONNECT with your peers and build regional dialogs
  • build your CONFIDENCE to serve and uphold families rights to care for our own after death
  • nourish COURAGE to continue the work of your practices and take care of yourself

The 2015 NHFA Conference was a weekend packed with human connection and confidence building activities, all amidst the stunning natural environment of redwood groves and welcoming nature trails in the Santa Cruz Mountains perched above Los Gatos, Ca. This was an inclusive event where newcomers, people active in the Home Funeral movement, and allies from various fields gathered to see old friends and meet new ones, plus seek wisdom from each other and our stellar guests: Frank Ostaseski, Caitlin Doughty, Kate Munger, Nancy Jewel Poer, and the founders of Seven Ponds.


We gathered on the west coast at The Presentation Center in the Santa Cruz mountains near Los Gatos, California. This retreat center is tucked into redwood forests, with a natural setting that invites contemplation and rejuvenation while we worked.


Keynote speaker: Frank Ostaseski

FrankOstaseski was the keynote speaker at the NHFA 2015 ConferenceWe were very excited to have Frank Ostaseski as our keynote speaker for the 2015 National Home Funeral Alliance conference. In 1987 Frank co-founded the Zen Hospice Project, the first Buddhist hospice in America. In 2004, he created the Metta Institute to provide broad based education on mindful and compassionate end of life care. His groundbreaking work has been widely featured in the media, including the Bill Moyers television series On Our Own Terms, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and in numerous print publications. In 2001, he was honored by H.H. Dalai Lama for his years of compassionate service to the dying and their families.

Frank is a dynamic and visionary Buddhist teacher and international lecturer. He is a frequent keynote speaker for many healthcare organizations. His public programs, writings and recordings have introduced thousands to the practices of contemplative care. More info at mettainstitute.org.

Honored guest speaker: Caitlin Doughty

Caitlin Doughty, Order of the Good Death, was a popular presenter at the 2015 National Home Funeral Alliance conferenceCaitlin Doughty is a licensed mortician and the host and creator of the Ask a Mortician web series. She founded the death acceptance collective The Order of the Good Death and cofounded Death Salon. Her first book, “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: and Other Lessons From the Crematory” was a New York Times bestseller. Her website is orderofthegooddeath.com.

Her website reads: The Order of the Good Death is a group of funeral industry professionals, academics, and artists exploring ways to prepare a death phobic culture for their inevitable mortality. It was founded in January 2011 by Caitlin Doughty, a mortician and writer in Los Angeles, CA. The Order is about making death a part of your life. That means committing to staring down your death fears- whether it be your own death, the death of those you love, the pain of dying, the afterlife (or lack thereof), grief, corpses, bodily decomposition, or all of the above. Accepting that death itself is natural, but the death anxiety and terror of modern culture are not. The members of the Order believe there is a revolution afoot in the way our society handles death.

Honored guest speaker: Kate Munger

Kate Munger was a beloved presenter at the 2015 National Home Funeral Alliance conferenceKate Munger, international speaker, singer, song leader, composer, teacher and founder of the Threshold Choirs, has been passionate about community singing since she was 8 years old at Girl Scout Camp. She has taught and led community singing for over 35 years. She is a popular speaker at conferences of palliative care and prison reform professionals and is a gracious, skillful musical host and choral director whose joy lies in reminding us that we are singing beings, bringing “community singing” back to the community.

In 2000 at age 50, she founded the first of 130 current Threshold Choirs around the world. Today at 65, she has retired from heading the Threshold Choirs and returned to her passion of singing at the bedsides of people who are dying or in coma, children in hospital, and with folks who are in prison.

A composer of haunting and beautiful melodies and harmonies, Kate compiled and seeded the rich, widely sourced and immense Threshold Choir repertoire. She has produced all three of the Choir’s CDs: Listening at the Threshold (2003), Tenderly Rain (2006) and Walking Each Other Home (2014). Kate knows intimately that this work of service, of singing to the ill and dying, is deep and serious, and she offers a fresh, lively, sometimes irreverent, always relevant perspective. She makes her home on Tomales Bay in Marin County in California from which she travels the world in service and song.

Honored guest speaker: Nancy Jewel Poer

Nancy Jewel Poer spoke at the 2015 National Home Funeral Alliance conferenceNancy Jewel Poer is considered a ‘grandmother of the home death movement’ with nearly 40 years experience. But she says its really about supporting real and beautiful “Life’‘, not only up to transition but in the spirit beyond! As a mother of six and grandmother of many, she wanted her family to know home death is natural and should be filled with loving warmth for the dying. This led her to her work and book, “Living Into Dying, Spiritual and Practical Deathcare For Family and Community,” that is a classic in our field. An artist, she produced the award winning documentary film, The Most Excellent Dying of Theodore Jack Heckelman has, helped many people learn about the beauty of closure with a home vigil.

She has lectured and started threshold groups across the nation. Nancy is a co-founder of Rudolf Steiner College where she has taught Waldorf teachers for over 35 years. Nancy is also food activist for many decades she works with leaders in California for GMO awareness to protect our children and environment from the chemical harm of industrial agriculture. She has started threshold groups across the nation. She and her husband live on White Feather ranch where she often gives retreats for death and dying, mothering and women’s issues. Nancy still works actively with giving support to families with dying and home deaths. Her website is nancyjewelpoer.com and her blog is whitefeather2014.wordpress.com.

Honored guest speakers: Suzette Sherman and Peter Stathis, founders of Seven Ponds

Suzette Sherman and Peter Stathis, Founders of Seven PondsSuzette and Peter introduced us to a spectrum of end-of-life choices, ranging from the familiar to more alternative: conscious dying, home funeral, witnessing cremation, natural burial, holistic medicine, expressive arts therapy… and much more. Their talk on how we may take control of our end-of-life experience, feel more empowered to live our final moments of life, and grieve as we wish was informative and well-received.

SevenPonds promotes a healthy attitude towards the process of death by encouraging a meaningful experience that is in harmony with the environment. We are a contemporary resource for those who wish to celebrate memory and personalize the end-of-life. At SevenPonds, we believe that cremation and natural burial are the new traditions. Their website is sevenponds.com.

NHFA Conference in Los Gatos Oct 2 - 4 2015