Will you hear music when you die? 

Forget the after-life implications, that's an Earth-bound question.  And the answer is yes, if you want it.  Music thanatologists play music by the bedsides of dying people, frequently harp music. 

Peter Roberts has been doing it for a very long time, and he is the subject of a documentary film, "From Music Into Silence," by filmmaker Farshid Akhlagi.  We get a visit from Peter Roberts and hear some of his music. 


Have you thought much about what will happen to your body when you die?  In this time of increasing interest in green burials, there are alternatives to the standard metal-coffin-in-concrete-vault burial. 

The owners of Willow-Witt Ranch near Ashland recently sought Jackson County approval to turn part of their ranch into a green burial site, the Forest Natural Burial Ground.  A bit more than 18 acres will be set aside for the burying of bodies without chemicals or vaults, and with biodegradable shrouds and coffins. 


We don't have to like death, but we do have to accept it.  Any life will include some grief, and that's why WinterSpring exists. 

The Medford-based nonprofit helps people grieve in healthy ways, through group counseling and other activities. 

Hogan Sherrow is the Executive Director of WinterSpring. 

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We don't like to think about death.  And that's a problem when the event approaches and we've made no plans. 

It takes some advance thinking to stay healthy late in life and meet the end of life on our own terms.  Northern Californian Katy Butler walks us through the kind of thinking necessary in the book The Art of Dying Well: A Practical Guide to a Good End of Life

Public Domain

Even the happiest life can end in a hospital bed, lit by fluorescent lights.  Which is not how most people say they would like to go. 

So speak up now, says Dr. Samuel Harrington. 

His work focuses on end-of-life care, and helping people make choices long before they are no longer able to participate in decision-making. 

Dr. Harrington's latest book is At Peace: Choosing a Good Death After a Long Life

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It gives some people great comfort to think that they will see their long-gone loved ones again, in another place. 

Michael Shermer is not inclined to think there IS such a place.  He is a professional skeptic, even teaches a course called "Skepticism 101." 

And he takes up the human need to believe in an afterlife, and the quest for longer life--if not immortality--in a new book, Heavens on Earth.   

Could we live 200 years or more?  Could our bodies be frozen until science can fix what ails us?  Could our consciousness live in a robot body? 

Mary Landberg

Reading all the books about handling death and grief may not prepare people for tending to a person in their final days. 

Ashland authors Katie Ortlip and Jahnna Beecham leave nothing out of their book Living With Dying: A Complete Guide for Caregivers

It runs the gamut, from emotional and legal matters to specifics on use of bedpans and what to do with ashes after death. 


Most of us will not meet a funeral director until someone we know and love has already died.

It does not have to be that way, and organizations like the Living/Dying Alliance of Southern Oregon put on events to encourage people to learn more about death and dying, and their rights as they die. 

They also provide chances to get to know funeral directors, including Kate Swenson, a 30-something apprentice.  She dispels the myth of funeral directors as older men in gray suits. 


You're familiar with the role of a midwife: assist mothers-to-be with bringing their children into the world. 

But the ancient role of midwife has been given a twist: now you can be a DEATH midwife, helping people OUT of the world. 

Kate Riley is certified as a death midwife, dedicated to making dying people and their loved ones comfortable with the process of dying.  She is the author of a book about her mother's death, Launching Vee's Chariot: An End-of-Life Tale


We all lose someone to death sometime.  That knowledge does not really help with the grief, though. 

Words of comfort can... the kind that Ashland's Susanne Severeid offers in her book When Someone You Love is Dying

Her own experience with her husband's death inspired Severeid to provide the book of prose and nature photographs. 

Exchange Exemplar: The End Of Life

Nov 18, 2016
Mary Landberg

We all have a beginning and an end.  We just don't like to talk about the end of life very much. 

Katy Butler wrote about facing her father's impending death in Knocking On Heaven's Door; she visited the Exchange to talk about it several years ago. 

We revisit that interview in this hour. 

Copyright Jack Wiens 2016

There's no getting around grief.  If someone we love dies, we're going to feel it somehow, sooner or later. 

Ashlander Jack Wiens wanted to provide an easy-to-read guide for people experiencing grief.  So he wrote and drew Tending Our Grief

It marries Wiens' expertise both as a psychotherapist and as an accomplished artist in a slender volume. 

The Emergence Of The "Death Café"

Jun 13, 2016

 A culture like ours that values youth and vitality does not talk easily about death. 

Which might make death all the more surprising and hard to deal with when it arrives. 

The concept of the "death café" gives people a chance to gather in a relaxing setting to just talk about death. 

Ashland Death Café meets several times a year to provide that opportunity. 

Harp Music By The Bedsides Of The Dying

Nov 2, 2015

The care of dying people is often about physical comforts and medical efforts.

But music can be part of the closing of life's book as well. 

Music thanatologists play instruments, often harps, to soothe people approaching death. 

Jane Franz wrote a book about it, Behind The Harp; she joins us on the phone. 

Talking Openly About Death And Dying

Nov 2, 2015
Mary Landberg

We don't mind talking about taxes, but death is another matter entirely. 

Oregon Humanities is determined to break through the resistance, with a series of conversations on the end of life called simply "Talking About Dying." 

Communities all across the state are hosting the discussions, including Ashland, Medford, and Klamath Falls. 

Pastor Fred Grewe talks about death a great deal in his role as hospice chaplain. 

Accepting Death And "Dying Wise"

Oct 19, 2015

We get pretty freaked out by death in our culture. 

Stephen Jenkinson calls this the "wretched anxiety" about the end of life, an anxiety he works to lessen in his work. 

Jenkinson speaks and teaches ways to live and die better, and wrote a book called Die Wise.

Working Through The Death Of A Child

Jun 16, 2015

We can barely comprehend the death of a child to disease, even in the abstract.

Sukey Forbes had to deal with it as a reality in her own life, when her daughter died at age six. 

Her odyssey through grief and the search for meaning--including visits with clairvoyants--is told in Forbes' book The Angel in My Pocket: A Story of Love, Loss, and Life After Death

What The Dying Teach About Living

Dec 3, 2014
Open Waters Publishing

Did you ever ride in a car with a person who held his or her breath when passing a cemetery?  That's just one manifestation of the American difficulty in thinking or talking about death. 

Fred Grewe was afraid of death himself, but he wanted to get over it. 

So he became a hospice chaplain, and helped more than a thousand people come to terms with their deaths. 

Grewe tells stories of several of his clients in his book What the Dying Have Taught Me About Living.

End Of Life Care: "Bringing Bubbe Home"

Nov 25, 2014
White Cloud Press

When we allow ourselves to think about death, we often choose to think about relatively happy circumstances: dying at a ripe old age, at home, in bed, surrounded by family. 

In real life, it's seldom that way.  80 percent of Americans die in hospitals or nursing homes. 

Debra Zaslow did not want that fate for her grandmother, her bubbe. 

So she brought the 103-year-old woman home, to live out her final days there.  The poignant story is told in Zaslow's book Bringing Bubbe Home. 

Approaching Death With Open Minds And Hearts

Aug 26, 2014
Mary Landberg

Working with people approaching death is not for everyone. 

But it is a role hospice nurse Mary Landberg embraces. 

She has worked for years to ease the passage of her patients and ease the fear of death for patients, for family, for all of us. 

Landberg's efforts include the book Enduring Love: Inspiring Stories of Love and Wisdom at the End of Life.