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Woman hosts 'living funeral' for her dying sister and calls the experience 'magical'

“I would describe it as an exclamation point at the end of a sentence. The sentence of her life."

funerals, living funerals, death, creative funerals
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Living funerals can provide closure and comfort.

What do you do when you or a loved one becomes terminally ill? When the inescapable end all but sends a morbid telegram announcing its arrival? Do you "go gentle into that good night," filling the final days with solemn reverence and aching nostalgia? Or do you go out with a bang, choosing instead to savor whatever else life still has to offer?

For Heidi Satterthwaite, the choice was obvious.

Her sister, Jenna Satterthwaite, shared on BBC’s “Woman’s Hour” that Heidi had been diagnosed with a rare type of cancer known as myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), which occurs when blood-forming cells found in bone marrow are abnormal, back in 2018.

Before her death, Heidi made a heartfelt request to her sister—that they throw a party with all of their family and friends.


Jenna was happy to fulfill her sister’s wish and began sending out invitations. To their surprise, 200 people showed up, many traveling long distances and canceling plans to show up and say their goodbyes.

The “massive event” was very akin to a wedding, Jenna recalled, filled with the merriment of dancing, an “explosive playlist,” heartfelt speech and catered food. Heidi and her husband even closed out the night by dancing to the same song they danced at for their own wedding.

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Heidi Satterthwaite dancing her heart out

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“It was just this magical and pain-filled celebration of her life,” Jenna told BBC. “I would describe it as an exclamation point at the end of a sentence. The sentence of her life.”

After Heidi’s death, Jenna took to X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, to share a touching poem titled “Advice for the Dying,” created in part to encourage others with “the curse of advance notice,” to host a party, not a funeral, because funerals aren’t as “fun.”

As Alexandra Keeler, contributor for Big Think, brilliantly lays out, the concept of “living funerals” might not exactly be mainstream, but it has been around for a long time. Though the exact origins are unknown, living funerals have historical roots both in indigenous and ancient Japanese cultures, who would use the tradition to gain closure, make amends, show respect and generally provide ease of passage.

The idea was also incorporated in Mitch Albom’s popular “Tuesdays with Morrie.” As Morrie reflects on his colleague’s passing, he says, “What a waste. All those people saying all those wonderful things, and Irv never got to hear any of it.” So Morrie decides to gather a small group of friends and family to honor their beloved Irv.

As religion takes on less significance for many, it’s not surprising that more and more people are taking an interest in creating their own customized rituals for saying goodbye, whether that’s trading the formality for more festive, personal traditions during the funeral itself, or conducting a living funeral that allows the ailing person (and the ones they’ll leave behind) some measure of autonomy and joy during an otherwise bleak and gloomy situation.

For Jenna, giving Heidi a living funeral “was a moment to pause and acknowledge a beautiful life.”

"We don’t do that often. We’re bad at celebrating. We’re always looking to the next thing and shifting goalposts,” she said. “So it was really special to come together and kind of close that sentence as a group and say, ‘This was her life, she lived it well.’ Exclamation point.”

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"She was the best person I’ve ever known ."

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It’s no easy task to say goodbye to a loved one, but choosing to make it an event can be helpful for everyone.

Identity

Celebrate International Women's Day with these stunning photos of female leaders changing the world

The portraits, taken by acclaimed photographer Nigel Barker, are part of CARE's "She Leads the World" campaign.

Images provided by CARE

Kadiatu (left), Zainab (right)

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Women are breaking down barriers every day. They are transforming the world into a more equitable place with every scientific discovery, athletic feat, social justice reform, artistic endeavor, leadership role, and community outreach project.

And while these breakthroughs are happening all the time, International Women’s Day (Mar 8) is when we can all take time to acknowledge the collective progress, and celebrate how “She Leads the World.

This year, CARE, a leading global humanitarian organization dedicated to empowering women and girls, is celebrating International Women’s Day through the power of portraiture. CARE partnered with high-profile photographer Nigel Barker, best known for his work on “America’s Next Top Model,” to capture breathtaking images of seven remarkable women who have prevailed over countless obstacles to become leaders within their communities.

“Mabinty, Isatu, Adama, and Kadiatu represent so many women around the world overcoming incredible obstacles to lead their communities,” said Michelle Nunn, President and CEO of CARE USA.

Barker’s bold portraits, as part of CARE’s “She Leads The World” campaign, not only elevate each woman’s story, but also shine a spotlight on how CARE programs helped them get to where they are today.

About the women:

Mabinty

international womens day, care.org

Mabinty is a businesswoman and a member of a CARE savings circle along with a group of other women. She buys and sells groundnuts, rice, and fuel. She and her husband have created such a successful enterprise that Mabinty volunteers her time as a teacher in the local school. She was the first woman to teach there, prompting a second woman to do so. Her fellow teachers and students look up to Mabinty as the leader and educator she is.

Kadiatu

international womens day, care.org

Kadiatu supports herself through a small business selling food. She also volunteers at a health clinic in the neighboring village where she is a nursing student. She tests for malaria, works with infants, and joins her fellow staff in dancing and singing with the women who visit the clinic. She aspires to become a full-time nurse so she can treat and cure people. Today, she leads by example and with ambition.

Isatu

international womens day, care.org

When Isatu was three months pregnant, her husband left her, seeking his fortune in the gold mines. Now Isatu makes her own way, buying and selling food to support her four children. It is a struggle, but Isatu is determined to be a part of her community and a provider for her kids. A single mother of four is nothing if not a leader.

Zainab

international womens day, care.org

Zainab is the Nurse in Charge at the Maternal Child Health Outpost in her community. She is the only nurse in the surrounding area, and so she is responsible for the pre-natal health of the community’s mothers-to-be and for the safe delivery of their babies. In a country with one of the world’s worst maternal death rates, Zainab has not lost a single mother. The community rallies around Zainab and the work she does. She describes the women who visit the clinic as sisters. That feeling is clearly mutual.

Adama

international womens day, care.org

Adama is something few women are - a kehkeh driver. A kehkeh is a three-wheeled motorcycle taxi, known elsewhere as a tuktuk. Working in the Kissy neighborhood of Freetown, Adama is the primary breadwinner for her family, including her son. She keeps her riders safe in other ways, too, by selling condoms. With HIV threatening to increase its spread, this is a vital service to the community.

Ya Yaebo

international womens day, care.org

“Ya” is a term of respect for older, accomplished women. Ya Yaebo has earned that title as head of her local farmers group. But there is much more than that. She started as a Village Savings and Loan Association member and began putting money into her business. There is the groundnut farm, her team buys and sells rice, and own their own oil processing machine. They even supply seeds to the Ministry of Agriculture. She has used her success to the benefit of people in need in her community and is a vocal advocate for educating girls, not having gone beyond grade seven herself.

On Monday, March 4, CARE will host an exhibition of photography in New York City featuring these portraits, kicking off the multi-day “She Leads the World Campaign.

Learn more, view the portraits, and join CARE’s International Women's Day "She Leads the World" celebration at CARE.org/sheleads.


Health

Over or under? Surprisingly, there actually is a 'correct' way to hang a toilet paper roll.

Let's settle this silly-but-surprisingly-heated debate once and for all.

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Should you hang the toilet paper roll over or under?


Humans have debated things large and small over the millennia, from the democracy to breastfeeding in public to how often people ought to wash their sheets.

But perhaps the most silly-yet-surprisingly-heated household debate is the one in which we argue over which way to hang the toilet paper roll.

The "over or under" question has plagued marriages and casual acquaintances alike for over 100 years, with both sides convinced they have the soundest reasoning for putting their toilet paper loose end out or loose end under. Some people feel so strongly about right vs. wrong TP hanging that they will even flip the roll over when they go to the bathroom in the homes of strangers.

Contrary to popular belief, it's not merely an inconsequential preference. There is actually a "correct" way to hang toilet paper, according to health experts as well as the man who invented the toilet paper roll in the first place.

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Father takes daughter's bullying victim on a shopping trip to teach her a lesson

When Randy Smalls of South Carolina discovered that his teenage daughter was making fun of a classmate over her clothes and makeup, he took swift action.

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Smalls instantly felt sympathy for Ryan Reese, a seventh-grader at Berkeley Middle School, having been bullied in his youth. So he took money meant for his daughter and went on a shopping spree with Ryan to get some new clothes and a makeover.

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Currently, about 1% of adults have no interest in sex, though some experts believe that number could be higher. For a long time, information on asexuality was limited, but researchers recently have found information that gives us more knowledge about asexuality.

Being asexual can be tough, though — just ask the artists from Empathize This.

To demonstrate, they put together a comic on asexuality, defining it as a sexual orientation, not a dysfunction:

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A study has been following 'gifted' kids for 45 years. Here's what we've learned.

Some of what we used to think about gifted kids turned out to be wrong.


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In the 1960s, psychologist Julian Stanley realized that if you took the best-testing seventh graders from around the country and gave them standard college entry exams, those kids would score, on average, about as well as the typical college-bound high school senior.

However, the seventh graders who scored as well or better than high schoolers, Stanley found, had off-the-charts aptitude in quantitative, logical, and spatial reasoning.

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Christina Hunger, 26, is a speech-language pathologist in San Diego, California who believes that "everyone deserves a voice."

Hunger works with one- and two-year-old children, many of which use adaptive devices to communicate. So she wondered what would happen if she taught her two-month-old puppy, a Catahoula/Blue Heeler named Stella, to do the same.

"If dogs can understand words we say to them, shouldn't they be able to say words to us? Can dogs use AAC to communicate with humans?" she wondered.

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