All-Day Smithsonian Workshop on Religious Views of Death

Death and Beyond: Comparative Reflections on World Religious Traditions

S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)

Saturday, November 9, 2019 – 9:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.
Issues of death, dying, and the meaning of life—and the afterlife—hold key places in the belief systems of the major religious traditions of the world. Graham M. Schweig, a professor of philosophy and religion at Christopher Newport University, surveys differing visions of these themes from a variety of Eastern and Western cultural perspectives. Stories, teachings, and rituals from the major faiths, as well as contemporary interpretations, are examined to illuminate the ultimate life event: death.

9:30–10:45 a.m. Overview: Comparative Religions and Life After Death

What is religion? And what is the role of death, dying, and the afterlife in world religions?  Explore these topics as well as conceptions of the soul and the human struggle for purpose and meaning among the three major global religious systems.

11 a.m.–12:15 p.m. Semitic Traditions

Visions of death and the afterlife from the ancient Middle Eastern traditions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam: key figures and tenets.

12:15–1:30 p.m.  Lunch (participants provide their own).

1:30–2:45 p.m. East Asian Traditions

Conceptions of death and the afterlife in Confucianism, Taoism, Shinto, and Buddhism.

3–4:15 p.m. South Asian Traditions and Modern Reflections

Hinduism, Jainism, and Sikhism are examined, as well as contemporary interpretations of themes on death, dying, and the afterlife.

To purchase tickets online, click on the following link:


Alzheimer’s/Dementia: Ministry with the Forgotten


How can churches help people living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, and their caregivers? Answering that question is the topic of a new, free resource now available from The United Methodist Church.

The five-part study, titled “Alzheimer’s/Dementia: Ministry with the Forgotten” includes downloadable videos and a leader’s guide. Retired Bishop Ken Carder wrote the resource based on his experiences caring for his wife, Linda, who was diagnosed in 2009 with frontal temporal dementia.

“(The resource) was created to start conversations and to generate action around caring for people who have Alzheimer’s and the people who care for them,” said Carder, who currently serves as chaplain at Bethany Memory Care Center at the Heritage of Lowman, a retirement center near Columbia, S.C., where he and Linda live.

The aim, Carder said, is that the new offering can help older adult ministry leaders and pastors, family and caregivers of those living with dementia, as well as persons in early stages of dementia.

Topics covered in the study, designed to be used in a small group setting, include impact and challenges of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia; practical and specific ways local congregations can be involved in caring for those with dementia and their caregivers; and ways individuals can communicate, interact and worship with people who have Alzheimer’s and dementia.

To view the materials, click on the following link

Dementia Resources

Going Places without Leaving Home

A Washington Post article (STYLE section 10/15/2019) tells about Carleigh Berryman, founder of a company named Viva Vita, who brings virtual-reality experiences to older men and women who can no longer travel.  Her virtual reality goggles permits viewers to travel all over the world without leaving home.  To view her website, click on the following link:

The Illuminated Sea — Jacqie Wallen

In the summer of 2010 I travelled to an artist resort in Melaque, Mexico to study watercolor with the co-owner and resident artist, Nancy Lennie. The picture to the left shows how La Paloma looked in the brochure. I arrived with visions of warm sun, clear skies, exotic birds, and bursts of tropical flowers overflowing the borders of shaded gardens.

But summer is the rainy season in Melaque.  When I arrived, the sky was cloudy and dark. My cheerful room was a perfect artist’s retreat, though. A large table was positioned beneath a picture window that looked out over the swimming pool and, beyond that, the ocean. The rugs and bedspread were bright and colorful and the tiled kitchen was roomy. Bright watercolors filled the walls. Later that night, when no one was about, I eased naked into the (“clothing optional”) swimming pool, which was just outside my room.

The water was a pleasant temperature and I floated on my back undisturbed, staring up at the darkness. Because of the clouds, I could not see a single star. There were underwater lights in the pool and when I turned over to swim on my stomach I was startled and momentarily frightened to see that there were crabs on the bottom of the pool. They looked dead.

The next morning I woke up early and took a walk on the beach. It was so cloudy that I couldn’t tell where the ocean ended and the sky began. The sky was filled with large pterodactyl-like birds and, to add to the prehistoric ambience, a long serpent-like fish with a mouthful of sharp teeth lay dead on the beach. From time to time one or more of the birds (which I later found out were called frigate birds) would swoop down to catch fish entrails cast into the ocean by a lone fisherman sitting in a rowboat cleaning his catch. There was something very sinister about it. I felt as if I were in Jurassic Park or maybe even in the Jurassic Age.

When I went back to my room, I painted this picture and named it “The Illuminated Sea” after an acupuncture point of the same name. The sea is both dangerous and life-giving.  It teems with life and unknown treasure.  To Freud, the sea represented the unconscious, the repressed.  To Jung, it symbolized our shadow self: the unacknowledged parts of our self that we cannot accept because they don’t fit with social expectations and conventions or with our own self-image.

The Illuminated Sea acupuncture point is connected to the water element and to the season of winter, both of which represent higher vision, wisdom, introspection, fortitude, and spiritual vitality.

Later life is often referred to as “the winter of our life” or “the winter of our years.” Ideally, it is a time when we are able to look back at our life and inward at our shadow in order to find meaning, integration, and hope.  We achieve wholeness, or what the psychologist Erik Erikson called “ego integrity.” We are able to accept who we are and what our life has been without shame, resentments, or regrets and to take pleasure in our positive memories.  If we are not able to do this, Erikson points out, we risk despair, hopelessness, and fear of death.


Fifty Years of My Life Told in Fewer Than 500 Words — Trish Nemore

Prepared on the occasion of my 50th High School Reunion in 2012

My life since Springside School – Patricia Baggs Nemore  ‘62

From my yearbook entry:  “. . . perpetually dieting. . . ”  Ouch!  Plus  ça change. . .

I left Springside with a plan to attend Northwestern University.  Beyond college, I had no life plan and have never developed one.  I’ve lived life as it has come to me and, while acknowledging periods of depression and despair and a not terribly optimistic or even hopeful worldview, I am grateful for the many interesting opportunities that have come my way.

Cousins, college friends and a friend from Ogontz Camp (remember Ogontz, folks?) provided reasons to come to Washington, DC to look for work after Northwestern.  I’ve never left.  Work on Capitol Hill in the 1960s introduced me to liberal politics and thinking.  Through Hill connections I heard Ralph Nader exhort young people to become lawyers to create social change.  I went to law school.

Two professors working in the emerging field of civil legal services for poor people influenced my decision to choose that path. The legal services community is filled with long-time, totally committed and brilliant lawyers with whom I feel honored to have been associated all these years.  I count these colleagues all over the country as among the great gifts of my life.  My legal work also allowed me to be part of the amazing health care debate of this decade.

Raising two children, Susanna and Patrick, and participating in the raising of a third, Samantha, has probably offered me my greatest growth challenges.  My children, now in their twenties and thirties, continue to help me examine who I am, how I relate to the world and how I give and receive love.  I am grateful for the lessons and for the endless opportunities to practice (!)

My spouse of more than seventeen years, Pat, introduced me to transgender experience and expression and, more importantly, got me more involved in Seekers Church, an independent progressive congregation with emphasis on asking questions, opportunity for transformative conversations and amazing ministries, but no doctrine or clergy.  I’ve been deeply engaged in many aspects of Seekers life and have recently stepped into a formal leadership position.

The opportunities that have come my way have come in large part, perhaps wholly, because of my incredible white privilege.  I am practicing greater awareness of that fact, trying to increase my sensitivity to both how my privilege affects my being in the world and its impact on others around me. A growing edge in this regard is engagement with issues of the racial aspects of mass incarceration in the United States.

I will leave my paid legal services/health advocacy work this summer. I’m looking forward to the next chapter of my life.   I’m grateful to Springside for providing me with a strong foundation for adult life.



Volunteers are taking seniors out on rickshaw rides to get them into nature


Started in Denmark, an organization called Cycling Without Age has since spread worldwide and has more than 1100 chapter locations, 1500 rickshaws, and 10,000 pilots.

To read an article about this organization, click on the following link:

For information about how to start a Cycling Without Age group in your area, click on this link:

Organic Burial Pods Will Turn Your Body into a Tree

Organic Burial Pods

Capsula Mundi is a cultural and broad-based project, which envisions a different approach to the way we think about death. It’s an egg-shaped pod, an ancient and perfect form, made of biodegradable material, where our departed loved ones are placed for burial. Ashes will be held in small Capsulas while bodies will be laid down in a fetal position in larger pods. The pod will then be buried as a seed in the earth. A tree, chosen in life by the deceased, will be planted on top of it and serve as a memorial for the departed and as a legacy for posterity and the future of our planet.

For more information, click on the following link:

Embracing Death in Service to Life

This review of the monthly series called “How Then Shall We Live: Finding our Way Amidst Global Collapse.” The series invites readers to face the darkness of an uncertain future, not with fear but instead with the open, honest, and humble heart, mind, and spirit required to hold all of the emotions that come with deep change – from grief and despair to beauty and possibility.   To read the review, click on the following link:

The Soul of Care: The Moral Education of a Husband and a Doctor

In his new book, Arthur Kleinman, a psychiatrist and medical anthropologist, describes the ten years he spent caring for his wife, who had early-onset Alzheimer’s. and navigating an often unfeeling health-care system on her behalf.  Despite the social isolation and stress he suffered, he also found fulfillment and beauty in the experience and wrote this book to comfort and educate family caregivers and clinicians.

To learn more about the book and read an excerpt, click on the following link: