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VEOLI held its second Open House on Wednesday, October 27, 2021. As we continue to define who we are and what our purpose is, it was heartening to be joined by folks who are interested both in visual graphics and end-of-life issues.

What happened at the Open House is what tends to happen at all VEOLI meetings: connections were made and expanded, as people understand and own the value of talking with others. Visuals are another layer of language, said one end-of-life doula. Many heads nodded vigorously.

What emerged was that each of us has a unique experience of death and dying and we can each bring those experiences to the group. Our ideas of what is possible around this work expands each time we connect with each other. It becomes a space for imagining: dreaming about how we might help each other move through the circle of life and death.

We will have another Open House sometime in the new year and more connections and inspiration will be generated and shared. As a relative newcomer, it is an enriching learning opportunity that I am grateful to have. Together we are a group looking forward.

On the VEOLI site there is a loosely curated list of resources — books, films, podcast, card decks, websites — that have been used by at least one member to help them in their work guiding others though end-of-life issues.

Of particular note is the book Awake at the Bedside, a collection of essays, poetry, and philosophy that has become the de-facto VEOLI book club choice for 2021. Most of us have read most of the book. We take it in turns to explore a chapter that spoke to us in a special way. There is a strong tie in this book to Buddhist practice and wisdom surrounding death.

A personal favorite vlog of mine is Caitlin Doughty’s Ask A Mortician. She also hosts a podcast called Death in the Afternoon. Caitlin is a smart and hilariously irreverent disruptor of standard funeral practices bur she holds a compassionate respect for the dead and their loved ones. It’s an informative and zanily entertaining rabbit hole.

Following member Susan MacLeod’s urging for us to explore the Graphic Medicine (Un)Convention in 2021, a number of us have become aware of the power of comics, zines, animation and other unusual treatments of serious topics relating to health. Jill has signed up to take a graphic memoir course at the Sequential Artists Workshop (SAW), inspired by Tom Hart’s Rosalie Lightning.

Whatever your motivation for exploring these resources, we encourage you to make sure a) your plans for your end of life (and afterwards!) are in place, b) that they are communicated to your loved ones and medical providers; c) that they are accessible in case of your no longer being able to access them when needed. Can we help? We’d love to visualize your Advance Care or Vigil plans with you, or memorialize a loved one. Check out the Gallery page on the VEOLI website to see what that might look like. We’re here, markers and styluses at the ready.

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