SPEAKER BIOGRAPHIES & SESSION DESCRIPTIONS
For a complete schedule, click here.

Friday, 2 pm Conference Opening and President's Address

Elizabeth Knox 

Beth Knox has been the President of the National Home Funeral Alliance since October, 2012.  A founding member of the NHFA, she is also co-founder and executive director of Crossings: Caring for Our Own, a national home funeral and green burial resource center. She came to home funeral work through personal loss and has since been an advocate for the love and wonder and healing power of a home funeral.  She has taught workshops nationally and internationally for the last 15 years, establishing self-sufficient home funeral support circles in communities across the country.  It is her hope that one day her work will no longer be necessary, as everyone will know that they have the option of performing a home funeral and will know how to exercise that right. 


Through her extensive knowledge in the field, her passion for and eloquence in speaking about home funeral and her experience as a founding member and President of the NHFA, together with Nancy Jewel Poer, Beth is honored to warmly welcome conference participants. She will focus us on the beauty and benefits of being together and hopes to strengthen us in our mission "to educate and empower families and communities to care for their own dead."


Friday, 7 pm Keynote Address:  “Attending the Dead:  It Takes a Village”

Megory Anderson, PhD

Megory Anderson is the Founder and Director of the Sacred Dying Foundation and an author, educator, comparative religions scholar and Theologian.  Her work is known internationally in the end-of-life community. She is currently an Honorary Research Fellow Faculty Member at the University of Winchester in the UK where there is an M.A. program in Death and Dying. She is author of Sacred Dying: Creating Rituals for Embracing the End of Life and Attending the Dying.


This talk focuses on the community nature of attending the dying and dead. From caring for those who are facing the end of their lives, to accompanying them as they pass through life into death, to attending the bodies and preparing them for burial, the entire community is called upon to participate. What has been invisible is now embraced as acts of care for all. What does that mean for those who do this sacred work? How do we invite the community to participate in their rightful role? We'll explore together the movement from a secondary to village model.



Friday, 2:30 pm "Funeral Customs and Traditions, Past, Present and Future"

Freddie Johnson

Freddie Johnson, Co-founder of Prairie Creek Conservation Cemetery, Gainesville, Florida, became active in the “renewal” effort for home funerals and natural burials in 2006 when he established Conservation Burial Inc.  In the Fall of 2010 that organization opened the first certified conservation burial ground in Florida: Prairie Creek Conservation Cemetery.  In the process, Freddie was drawn to learning how to help individuals and families perform home funerals and has since helped many who choose to care for their own dead. He credits Karen Van Vuuren, Sandy Gordon and Peg Lorenz with his home funeral training.


Through providing information about the various "conventional" and "traditional" death care choices available today and how they came about, Freddie identifies the environmental, financial & emotional consequences of our choices and what they each have to offer.  Through his extensive experience in managing a "green cemetery", Freddie addresses the relationship between natural burial choices and home funeral choices and why that relationship is important. 



Saturday, 8:45 am "Changing American Beliefs About Death:  It's OK to Die"


Monica Williams-Murphy

Monica Williams-Murphy, MD, board-certified emergency physician, is an author, blogger and public speaker whose focus is empowering patients and families in critical and end-of-life decision-making. Dr. Murphy serves as a Medical Expert for ThirdAge.com, the leading online Baby Boomer lifestyle site, and is Guest Faculty for the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s School of Medicine. She serves on the Board of her local hospice. Her book "It's OK to Die" and companion website are devoted to transforming the end of life into a time of peace, closure and healing.


We know that Americans who are unprepared for death are more likely to make choices that allow or cause unnecessary suffering for themselves and their families.  In contrast, proper advanced planning creates a powerful opportunity for the end-of-life to become a time of peace, closure and even healing.  Monica will help us understand how to create conditions in which we can plan ahead, make our peace, understand that it is OK to die naturally and make educated choices that allow us to pass away peacefully and comfortably surrounded by those who love us most.


Saturday, 10:45 am "An Expanded Vision of Home Funeral"

Char Barrett

Char Barrett was the first President of the National Home Funeral Alliance and led the leadership team that established the organization, starting in October 2009.  In 2007 Char established A Sacred Moment Funeral Services, one of the first funeral homes in the United States with a central vision to support home funeral and green burials.  As a bridge between home funeral educators and the funeral industry, she is a regular speaker nationally and internationally.  Char is a Licensed Funeral Director, Home Funeral Guide, Celebrant and has been a hospice volunteer since the early 90s.

What is your definition of a home funeral?  Most of us base it on our own experience, training or from viewing A Family Undertaking.  Through her extensive experience in guiding families with all types of funeral and death care choices, Char will help you explore this question.  The definition is broader than you think!  Hear heartwarming and surprising stories about choices families have made.  Explore how working together with those in roles that may influence a family’s choices for a “home funeral” (such as hospice or hospital staff, clergy, funeral directors, medical examiners, etc.) can create meaningful and healing outcomes.  



Saturday, 1:00 pm "Home Funeral Basics:  How to Care for our Own"
Concurrent with "Green Burial Tour and Talk"

Jerrigrace Lyons
and Olivia Bareham

Jerrigrace Lyons is an ordained Minister, death educator and midwife. She founded the non-profit Final Passages in 1995, creating a certificate program in Death Midwifery and Home Funeral Guidance, and co-authored a complete guidebook called Creating Home Funerals. Jerrigrace’s pioneering work in guiding hundreds of families to reclaim the ancient wisdom, innate rights and healing benefits of family-directed home funerals has been featured in worldwide publications such as the Wall Street Journal and USA Today and in the PBS documentary, “A Family Undertaking." 

Olivia Bareham has a BA in Education and in Natural Theology and Sacred Healing, is an ordained Minister of Healing, a Funeral Celebrant, a certified Death Midwife and a Home Funeral Guide with Final Passages.  She has experience in the fields of auxiliary nursing, elder care and hospice volunteering.  In 2005, Olivia founded Sacred Crossings: The LA Institute for Conscious Dying and Family Directed Funerals with the mission of educating and empowering families to reclaim the Lost Art and Healing Ritual of a Home Funeral. Olivia is an accomplished writer, producer and public speaker.

Death Midwives, Jerrigrace Lyons and Olivia Bareham offer a lively, informative session demonstrating the "How To's" of creating a Home Funeral, including:

  • Creating a peaceful environment
  • Bathing, washing the hair, dressing, shrouding, anointing with essential oils
  • Dry-ice and alternative methods of preservation
  • The 3-day vigil
  • Therapeutic ways to express grief through art and ritual
  • The legalities for Home Funerals in the US, including obtaining and completing all documentation.

To illustrate the material covered in this session, Jerrigrace and Olivia will share personal stories, photographs and film clips from their combined 40 years' experience in the field.


Saturday, 1:00 pm "Green Burial Tour and Talk"
Concurrent with "Home Funeral Basics: How to Care for our Own"

Dyanne Matzkevich

Dyanne Matzkevich, Director & Manager of Pine Forest and Gethsemane Memorial Gardens Green Cemeteries is a Certified Celebrant. She became involved with the cemeteries 10 years ago and they have become her passion. Through reading Grave Matters by Mark Harris she became interested in green burial and attended a 6-hour seminar presented by the Green Burial Council in 2009, after which she opened the Garden of Renewal at Pine Forest Memorial Gardens. It is North Carolina's only GBC certified Natural Burial Ground.


After driving the 30 minutes to the cemetery, this session will include a presentation on the conception, development and reality of The Garden of Renewal at Pine Forest Memorial Gardens and a preview the new film, A Will for the Woods. The film chronicles one man's wish to have a green burial which led to the creation of this cemetery.  Participants will take a walking tour and learn about the logistics of green burial.  Sturdy shoes and long pants are recommended.  Sorry, no walkers, but wheelchairs are ok unless it's raining. Transportation will be provided for $15; sign up at Saturday breakfast to reserve a spot.



Sunday, 9:00 am "Creating Community Buzz:  How to Use the New NHFA Slide Presentation"

Lee Webster

Lee Webster is a home funeral guide and green burial advocate, writer, conservationist, and longtime hospice volunteer and spiritual care coordinator. She trained with Final Passages and Crossings: Caring for Our Own. Since 2012 Lee has been Vice President of the National Home Funeral Alliance.  She is also Director of New Hampshire Funeral Resources, Education & Advocacy (NHFREA).  Lee brings her professional background in public relations and development research and writing and her experience working with non-prophic organizations to her public speaking and promotion of natural death care options. This is her third presentation appearance for the NHFA.


"How to Speak Home Funeral’s" Lee Webster is back to unveil Healing Presence: the Re-emergence of Home Funerals, a PowerPoint slide presentation carousel with commentary developed for use when introducing the public to home funerals, PLUS tips on ways to stimulate interest in your community to trigger your next speaking invitation. Learn how to edit and make any of the three versions yours for guaranteed success at your next speaking engagement.


Sunday, 10:45 am "Building Community Through After Death Care"



Anne O'Connor


Anne O’Connor is a member of the Threshold Care Circle, a Viroqua Wisconsin group dedicated to integrating after-death care into family and community life. She is also the founder of Tending the Fire Within and offers workshops and products to help people live their best lives through creative connection, communication, and care. Anne has been a professional communicator for 20 years as a writer, journalist, editor, and speaker. She is a former staff writer for the Minneapolis Star Tribune and author of The Truth About Stepfamilies, DeCapo Press, 2003.


Sometimes those who speak about home funeral can feel like a small voice in a big wood. Anne O’Connor will highlight the experiences of the Threshold Care Circle, a group that transformed the conversations and practices about death in and around the small Midwestern town of Viroqua, WI. TCC is a cooperative that conducts workshops and keeps showing up, working together to build strength and continuity.  Anne will talk about how building a community with others is critical to assuring choices in death care. The session will wrap up with brainstorming the highlights of the conference, extracting principles and clarifying how to strengthen our own communities back home.

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