The first one-day Before I Die Festival at Greenlawn Cemetery Southwest in Bakersfield, California drew 150 attendees. Those who came were treated to behind-the-scenes tours at the crematory and mortuary prep room, a Mortuary Mall showing related products, and panel discussions on a range of topics, including hospice, estate planning issues, and the “woo woo” side of death.
The festival generated news coverage on television, radio, and in the local newspaper, The Bakersfield Californian. In a June 2 story, Jim LaMar, president of Greenlawn Funeral Homes and Cemeteries, was quoted saying, “This festival gives people a chance to find out everything they wanted to know about death, funerals, cremation, and burial but were always afraid to ask. We want to take the fear out of thinking about death and funerals and maybe even inject a bit of entertainment into the day.”
The entertaining (while educating) aspect was provided by Gail Rubin, Certified Thanatologist and The Doyenne of Death®. She led attendees in playing The Newly-Dead Game® Individuals Edition, facilitated a Death Cafe conversation, presented “Laughing in the Face of Death: Funny Films for Funeral Planning,” and showed the comedy film “Undertaking Betty.”
In this story on the CBS/FOX affiliate, BakersfieldNow Eyewitness News, Gail Rubin is quoted saying, “We all have a 100 percent mortality rate but less than 30 percent of adults do any end of life planning so that’s going to leave 70 percent or more of our loved ones scrambling to get information, make expensive decisions under duress of grief, and it doesn’t have to be that way.”
The Bakersfield Californian June 2, 2019: Before I Die Festival Gives End-of-Life Planning an Upbeat Twist
Gail Rubin was quoted in the article saying, “We as individuals affect more lives than we know by just being who we are. When we die — yes, I used the D-word — people want to fill that hole in their hearts. By saying ‘don’t have a funeral for me when I’m gone,’ you are doing a disservice to the people who love you.”
A reporter from Valley Public Radio, the NPR affiliate for Fresno and Bakersfield, interviewed Jim LaMar and Gail Rubin prior to the festival, and she attended the event. At the festival, she interviewed attendees and recorded comments at the Death Cafe conversation. Click the link to listen to her feature story, Forget Corn Dogs – This Bakersfield Festival Serves Up Death Talk and a Crematorium Tour.
Online Video Interview
Prior to the festival, Gail Rubin interviewed Jim LaMar about what attendees would find when they came to the event. Here’s that interview.