Preparing For A Good End Of Life

In this weekend’s Review section of the Wall Street Journal, Katy Butler delivers an excerpt from her new book “The Art of Dying Well: A Practical Guide to a Good End of Life” in which her shares the findings of the three years she spent “interviewing hundreds of people who have witnessed good deaths and hard ones” and “consulting top experts in end-of-life medicine.” The directives she outlines provide evidence that considering your own death (and especially before you are in the position where you “have to”) is a powerful exercise, demonstrating that “those who contemplate their aging, vulnerability and mortality often live better lives and experience better deaths than those who don’t.”

• Have a vision

• Stay in charge

• Know the trajectory of your illness

• Find your tribe and arrange caregivers

• Take command of the space

• Think of death as a rite of passage

“Don’t reduce the end of your life to a medical procedure or strip it of ceremony and humanity. Make sure you live and die as a full human being.” We couldn’t agree more, Katy, and can’t wait to read your book.

The Going Out In Style 2018 Gift Guide

The definitive gift guide for a stylish memorial.

A vintage Gucci vase for ashes, a Smythson Little Black Book for “what your family should know” in your absence, a red lipstick worthy of that final kiss for viewings, a paper flower that will last for months in one columbarium vestibule, a tuxedo fit to be buried in, and a Louis Vuitton garment bag for storing your last wardrobe change… just the essentials.

Happy Holidays from Going Out In Style! XO Naomi, Cassidy, Colleen, and Erin.


Scatter My Ashes at Disney World

Instead of going to a grave, I go to Disney World.”

When choosing a meaningful place to scatter the ashes of a lost loved one, it is natural to pick the place that made them most happy in life.

For millions, The Happiest Place on Earth is Disney. There is magic in Cinderella’s wishing well, in the moat underneath the flying elephants of the Dumbo ride, in the lawns of the Magic Kingdom… and there are remnants of countless children-at-heart that loved these places dearly in life.

Of course, it is illegal to scatter ashes in the theme parks, but this doesn’t stop those that are determined to give their family member or friend the perfect resting place.

For Disney staff, the practice is so common that they have special vacuums to clean up the extra-fine cremation ash. (One false alarm turned out to be powdered sugar from a funnel cake!)

According to the Wall Street Journal, ashes have been scattered everywhere in the parks including off of rides (temporarily shutting them down). Most frequently of all, they have been dispersed throughout the Haunted Mansion, the 49-year-old attraction featuring an eerie old estate full of imaginary ghosts.

Not only is the scattering a cathartic and often joyful ceremony for the mourner, but Disney as a memorial site can feel perfectly fitting for the one they lost. It is a place they can continue to visit year after year, remembering laughs shared, celebrations, joy, and childlike wonder.

"Think of the happiest things. It’s the same as having wings.” -Peter Pan

Hollywood Forever: Cemetery of the Stars

Located on the same block as Paramount Pictures, Hollywood Forever is one of the oldest cemeteries in Los Angeles, and the final resting place for numerous Hollywood studio founders, actors, directors, writers, and performers from the entertainment industry. Notable industry burials include Alfred Hitchcock, Cecil B. DeMille, Judy Garland, Rudolph Valentino, and Maila Nurmi. In recent years, it has also attracted rock and rollers such as Johnny and Dee Dee Ramone, and Chris Cornell.

Despite a checkered past, this fascinating landmark has in recent years been furbished to its original splendor and is not only an active cemetery and funeral home, but a thriving and unique venue for cultural events. Summer is an especially great time to make a visit, watch a movie, or catch a concert. You can view their calendar here


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The Coffin Club

Hidden away in a small New Zealand town, a group of rebellious seniors have found a unique way to prepare for death

The Kiwi Coffin Club club began in 2010 with an idea from founding member and former palliative care nurse Katie Williams. "There is a lot of loneliness among the elderly," says Williams of her fellow retirees, "but at the coffin club people feel useful, and it is very social. We have morning tea and lunch, and music blaring." Together the members cope collectively with the realities of death and imbue their final journey with some personality at a fraction of the price of a standard coffin. 

Not only do we love the club's spirit of rebellion and doing-it-yourself... we love the sense of humor they bring to the subject. The coffin club members are having a laugh together, building community, and bringing a little levity to  the discussion of their final resting place. The idea has become so popular that clubs are now popping up all over New Zealand.

Cheers, Kiwi Coffin Club


Go Out to Sea and Drink My Wine

Many of us have a vision for how our loved ones will grieve us- some more specific and uncommon than others. At Going Out In Style, we can help you both craft that vision, and make sure it is set into action no matter how simple or bizarre.

Ritual and tradition in grieving takes many forms, and for the architect/surfer/inventor Harry Gesner, it will be beautifully simple.

Go out to sea and drink my wine


Gesner is an artist now in his 80s who loves sun, water, and invention. He grew his own grapes on the hillside near his Malibu home that he "smashed" and turned into wine decades ago. The sole purpose of these bottles is for his children to enjoy upon his death, out at sea where Gesner feels most at home, bobbing on a hand-made surfboard.

To learn more about the beautiful vision and dream-like houses of Harry Gesner, Vanity Fair wrote a lovely piece. 

Special thanks to Julia Sherman for a beautiful interview and look into his home in her latest book.


Atlas Obscura's 10 Iconic Cemeteries That Made Death Beautiful


Bring a blanket and make like a Victorian to your nearest rural cemetery to spend some time with the dead. At Going Out In Style, we definitely plan to. 

We fell in love with this Atlas Obscura article, "The 10 Iconic Cemeteries That Made Death Beautiful." The 19th century marked a departure from doom-and-gloom Victorian Era cemeteries to lush, garden-like havens that showcase the beauty of death. From Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris to Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, the article highlights the 10 most reputable cemeteries known for their rich beauty that started the "rural cemetery" movement.  Check out the article for the full story. 

Posthumous Homage: the NY Time's "Overlooked"

If you are a regular reader of the New York Times obituaries, you’ve probably noticed (and they’ll readily admit) that the majority of featured subjects are (mostly white) males. Seeking to balance the scales, on International Women’s Day, The Times announced the addition of a new regular column called “Overlooked.” Beginning with the stories of 15 incredible women (including Charlotte Bronte, Sylvia Plath, and Diane Arbus, as well as some perhaps lesser known, but no less interesting  ladies) it promises to catch us up on the “obituaries for [those] who left indelible marks but were nonetheless overlooked.” 

You can have a look here to read the obituaries, find out how the project came to be, and there’s even a form to nominate future candidates for the feature.. 

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Memento Mori Paintings: Max Beckmann

An extinguished black candle, three tortured skulls, playing cards... Max Beckmann creates a landscape of mememto moris in  Still Life with Three Skulls to tell a dark refugee story. Matthew Rose says it best.

Max Beckmann’s Still Life with Three Skulls (1945) is more of a damning paean to the death culture of Nazi Germany than a reminder of the artist’s own death. The artist had fled Germany in 1937 for Amsterdam and the thick black outlines round the trio of cartoonish skulls, playing cards and an extinguished candle on a table echo a darkness war refugees fully understand. According to The Museum of Fine Art in Boston where this work hangs, the still life was produced during the final months of World War II. Beckmann said it was “a truly grotesque time, full to the brim with work, Nazi persecutions, bombs, hunger.”  -Matthew Rose

Max Beckmann, Still Life with Three Skulls (1945)

Max Beckmann, Still Life with Three Skulls (1945)

Funeral Pyre

If you have the Viking desire for your body to be open-air cremated on a funeral pyre, hopefully you are lucky enough to live in Crestone, Colorado. Though the death ritual dates back to ancient times and is still practiced today by Buddhist and Hindu religions, it is considered taboo in the United States. 

The only funeral pyre in the US is located at the foot of the the Sangre De Cristo mountain range  as part of the Crestone End-of-Life Project. CEOLP cares for the bodies of community members and their families regardless of religion. They see death as a gate and work with families, honoring their experience. They claim no knowledge of death and "simply serve the mystery." 

Finding the site is not difficult in the small town of Crestone. A metal sign (made by a local potato farmer that also happens to be the coroner) with a flame and the word "PYRE" leads the way . The pyre itself- a grate that rests atop two slabs of white concrete- sits on a bed of sand and  is circled by bamboo wall. 

At the ceremony, the body of the deceased is wrapped in a linen sheet and surrounded by juniper branches family and friends place around the shrouded body. The torch lights the fire and the sweet smell of juniper fills the air as community circle the fire, sometimes in silence and sometimes in song. 

The CEOLP is part of Informed Final Choices, a group that believes that death is a sacred celebration. Their description of the funeral pyre ceremony: Imagine the community gathering to see the body of the beloved, wrapped in a chosen shroud, as it is placed on a pyre and covered with boughs, and with candles and items from the life of the deceased with sweets and wishes spoken or silent, a family member lighting the pyre as flames reach skyward to return the covering of the spirit to the realm of spirit, as all things return to their essence, just as rain nourishes the earth and then rises in evaporation.



Natural Pet Burial

The natural burial movement is not just for humans! 

If you have suffered the loss of a pet you may have gone through the often unpleasant experience of pet cremation and remains disposal. From mass cremation to plastic baggies of ashes... the process can feel impersonal and undignified. Not what your furry (or scaled or feathered) best bud deserved. 

For those that would prefer to bury a pet naturally, Paw Pods are a 100% green, sustainable and biodegradable option.  Their natural boxes and urns are made from bamboo powder and rice husk and come in lots of different sizes- even fish pods.

Paint a memory or pet's name in black Japanese ink, add a favorite toy inside, and bury in a meaningful place. Each pod comes with a seeded wildflower leaf that can be buried with it to serve as a living memorial.



Paw Pods' founder Ben Riggins had a mission to provide a better way for pets to come home, whether they will be buried or cremated. “Unlike so many ‘pet caskets,’ I wanted sturdy, strong construction – not flimsy paper.”

Paw Pods offers six pod sizes and range in price from $10 to $200 depending on size.

For more natural pet burial pods  see The Forever Spot for all natural, plantable burial shrouds that help to cleanse your pet's body of environmental toxins and generate new life around the burial site. 


Stomp The Yard

Professional pallbearers can be hired to dance your loved one's casket to the grave, an uplifting service that exemplifies the celebration of that person's life. This movement started in Africa, primarily in Ghana, where funerals are big events that span at least three days long but has recently made its way into the US. It is a true celebration of a loved one’s life.

This isn't just a few guys busting out any old dance moves.  These dances are choreographed to specific songs and the pallbearers are typically dressed in chic attire with top hats, gloves... the works. In fact, in the US this has become what an article on ABC News calls it “The White Glove Service” and “demonstrates the highest level of respect for the deceased."  It brings joy to families in a time of sadness and makes mourning more of a celebratory event. A BBC News article said, “Families are increasingly paying for their services to send their loved ones off in style,"  a trend that is right up our alley here at Going Out In Style