Mike Stolte, development director of the Kalein Centre, will facilitate the centre’s first Liminal Learning Lab in Nelson from Sept. 14 to 17. Photo submitted

The space between living and dying

Three-day Nelson event will explore death, grief and loss

By Louis Bockner

In a world obsessed with living life to the fullest, death becomes something to be avoided. It becomes taboo to speak of it, as if recognizing its inevitability will somehow fast-track our meeting with it.

But for some, the inclusion and awareness of death in their everyday lives is an aid for injecting meaning into existence.

It is this idea that inspired the Kalein Centre, a Nelson-based hospice society, to put on the inaugural Liminal Learning Lab — a bi-annual event that will bring together artists, thinkers, medical professionals and the public to discuss what death can teach us about life.

The lab, taking place at various venues around Nelson from Sept. 14 to 17, will be a mix of both public and invitation-only events. Mike Stolte, development director for the Kalein Centre, says it’s more than a conference or a think tank-style event.

“It’s all about exploring, expressing and experiencing. We want to have good conversations but we also want to be evocative so people experience things through different means. People will be singing, people will be dancing, people will be creating art based upon their experiences with death, dying, grief and loss.”

Following the loss of his partner to cancer several years ago Stolte, a former economist, took a year off work to grieve and reassess the path his life was taking.

“I didn’t feel ready to go back to doing the stuff I’d done,” he says. “I felt I was moving into a new chapter and wanted to do more heart work instead of head work so when this opportunity with Kalein came along it gave me a chance to do stuff that’s creative and meaningful.”

The word liminal is defined as the space in between. “Often it’s the space in between living and dying,” says Stolte, “but it’s also the space where we don’t know anything, and it can be rich and fertile soil.”

The two questions the lab is focusing on are: how do we become a more compassionate community around those near the end of life? And how do we use death, dying, grief and loss as a means by which we can live more fully and authentically?

Both these questions are inspiring the public event being held at the Civic Theatre on Sunday, Sept. 17 at 4 p.m. This free talk will feature two international heavyweights in the fields of hospice and aging.

Frank Ostaseski is the co-founder of the Zen Hospice Project, the first Buddhist hospice centre in North America; founder of the Metta Institute, an education centre dedicated to fostering mindful and compassionate end-of-life care; and the author of The Five Invitations. He has lectured at the Mayo Clinic and the Harvard Medical Clinic and has garnered so much acclaim in his field that the second presenter, Dr. Bill Thomas, likened having the opportunity to working with him with being asked to play one-on-one with Michael Jordan.

Thomas, a geriatrician and no slouch himself in the hospice world, will be skyping in from New York and is sure to bring a theatrical twist to his presentation. A strong advocate against society’s rampant fear of aging, he is currently touring the world with a 12-person troupe, including musicians and psychotherapists, which he describes as a “rolling, pro-aging carnival.”

Speaking with the Star from his home in New York his passion and humour is tangible even when addressing difficult topics like death and dying.

“Wrinkles have no meaning. They cause no pain. They cause no disability. They could be defined as a good thing, a bad thing or a nothing thing but our culture defines them as a bad thing. Expand that concept and it relates to a lot of aging.”

He feels there is a broad media narrative that says everything about aging is bad. “We show up in communities and say ‘It’s complicated.’”

He says he and Ostaseski will cover the tenuous terrain between aging and dying and do it with life and laughter.

“Some people might read your article and go, ‘I don’t know man, it seems like a sad event,’ but I think people are going to come out of this event feeling great because knowledge is power.”

The event will also be live-streamed by Valhalla Visuals and the link can be found on the Kalein Centre’s website.

Aside from the evening at the Civic there is also a free night of storytelling open to the public at the Nelson Public Library on Thursday, Sept. 14, at 6:30 p.m. The evening will feature local residents David Scanlan and Corky Evans, as well as Spokane-based author Sarah Conover.

Stolte, who is facilitating the library event and much of the weekend, hopes to continue this exploration of death and dying with the public in the coming years by hosting more public events both inside and outside of the Liminal Learning Labs.

“Over time I want to make sure death, dying, grief and loss become normalized. We don’t want death to be a four letter word,” he says, smiling.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

As part of the Kalein Centre’s inaugural Liminal Learning Lab, Dr. Bill Thomas, a pro-aging geriatrician from New York, will be skyping in to Nelson’s Civic Theatre to speak about death, dying, aging and how it all doesn’t have to be so dark. Photo submitted

Just Posted

LVR Drama student Emerald Lockhart adjusts his costume for a dress rehearsal. Students will perform theatre pieces in Nelson backyards, distanced but not wearing masks. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
Live theatre comes to your Nelson backyard

LVR senior drama class will perform short pieces for households

South Nelson Elementary students added several new varieties of plants to the school grounds with the help of KinSeed Ecologies. Photo: Submitted
South Nelson students get digging

The school added several new varieties of plants to its grounds with the help of KinSeed Ecologies

Brittny Anderson. Photo: Submitted
UPDATED: NDP’s Brittny Anderson named provisional winner in Nelson-Creston

The final result won’t be known until November due to mail-in ballots

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

FILE – B.C. Lions and Toronto Argonauts owner, Senator David Braley speaks after the CFL announced Vancouver will host the 2014 Grey Cup championship football game during a news conference in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday March 8, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
BC Lions owner David Braley dead at 79

Braley had bought the CFL team prior to 1997 season

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

NDP Leader John Horgan speaks with the owner of a barber shop while campaigning in Pitt Meadows, B.C., on Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. Campaigning was restricted by the coronavirus pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s B.C. majority came with historically low voter turnout

Barely half of eligible voters cast ballots in snap election

A Cranbrook mother is receiving praise across the world for her design of a sensory path aimed at helping kids in school when they need a movement break. (Chantal Marra file)
Cranbrook mother receives international praise for sensory paths business

Chantal Marra has sold her sensory path packages to schools across the world

A police pursuit ended with an arrest in Williams Lake on Highway 97 Sunday afternoon. (Facebook video screenshot)
Video catches police pursuit that ends with man kicked, punched in Williams Lake

A video of the arrest is getting widely shared on social media

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Most Read