Personal Chatterings

#DeathSalonSeattle Recap

This past weekend I had the lucky fortune of attending Death Salon: Seattle put on by the Order of the Good Death. If that name sounds familiar, I’ve mentioned it before. This event was put on for all of those individuals and organizations that are involved in the #deathpositive movement — including (but not limited) to: funeral home directors, writers, artists, and genealogists (like myself!) etc.  It was a wonderful experience and I highly suggest attending one if you can get to it (next year it is in Boston!)

Death Salon Seattle, logo by Silent James


Saturday started with a walk up to Red Square (below) on the University of Washington campus. Before we registered, most of us attendees talked among ourselves and made new friends.  It was an early morning (8:30 AM!), but us bleary-eyed deathlings were there and had a purpose — to learn as much as we could.

Good morning @university_of_washington_ it’s time for a @deathsalon 💀💀// #death #deathsalon #deathsalomseattle #deathgirl

A post shared by Becks Campbell (@thehipsterhistorian) on

9:30 AM – Sarah Chavez –Death and the Maiden: Why Women Are Working With Death and the Future of the Death Positive Movement

Death and the Maiden logo by Lozzy Bones Art
Death and the Maiden logo by Lozzy Bones Art
  • Sarah Chavez’s talk on women in the death positive movement was a great starter to the conferences weekend. She spoke about our role within the death positive movement and how working in it is reclaiming our bodies, our space, our lives and our identities. With a little bit of history, Sarah talked about how death has always been a woman’s place until the last century when gender roles and industry forced a change and it became privileged men who were in charge of the dead.


You can learn more about Sarah and her work at:

You can find Chanel at:

9:30 am  – Megan Devine –It’s OK that You’re not OK: Death Positivity in the Face of Grief

This particular lecture hit me harder than I expected. In most of our Westernized (i.e. American) culture of grieving, death and dying, we are expected to “buck up” and “be strong” under the pressures of death, loss, illness, violence and disasters. But what if we didn’t have to be? Megan Devine explore these thoughts in her lecture to us and really brought the point across that it is okay to be not okay.

You can find Megan here:

10:00 am  – Decolonizing Death– Matt Ignacioin conversation with Sarah Chavez

This was a fascinating conversation with Matt Igancioin about Decolonizing Death and the discussion behind the erasure of Native American death customs. He focused on what we could do to decolonize death rituals and really intersectionally talked about death in general. In addition to Angela Hennessy’s lecture, this lead the conference in being an intersectional death positive place.

11:00 am – Using Theatre To Start The Conversation about Death and Dying– Peggie Dickens in conversation with Elizabeth Coplan

While I wasn’t at the theater performances on Friday night,  Peggie and Elizabeth came and spoke to us about using theater to express death, dying and grief in a safe and secure manner. In fact, Elizabeth was in my lunch group for Sunday and was really able to speak to that.

11:30 am – Brian Flowers –Green Burial: The Intersection of Ecology & Ritual

This particular lecture was one of the ones I was also looking forward to as I am deep in research about green burial and what it can mean for me and others. Turns out that Brian Flowers and his green cemetery are located only about 15 minutes away from where I live (Bellinghamster shoutout!) and he spoke deeply to my feelings about green burial and why it is important.

1:30 pm Tanya Marsh –Regulated to Death: Re-Imagining the Funeral Services Market

Tanya Marsh’s talk on law and regulations took me back to my college days at Western Washington University and my media law class when she talked about the different regulations that are still in place in the death industry and that are strangling (no pun intended) it to death.

2:00 pm – Alternative Deathcare –Jeff Jorgenson in conversation with Nora Menkin

As the afternoon went on, to be honest, it was hard to pay full attention with a full brain of information on death and dying, but I was able to tune in for Jeff Jorgenson and his conversation with Nora Menkin about the struggles of running a green funeral home (the only one!) in Seattle. You can find information about both their organizations here:

3:00 pm – Death Cafe, a short film by Phoebe Holman

This lovely little short film spoke about the prevalence of Death Cafe’s, which are public gatherings where people meet for tea and to discuss their thoughts and fear surrounding death. Started by the late Jon Underwood in England, there are over more than 4,000+ Death Cafés worldwide. For more information on Death Cafes, click here.

3:15 pm – Recomposing with Katrina and Caitlin

The last lecture of the Death Salon was led by Caitlin Doughty with Katrina Spade, the founder of the Urban Death Project. Katrina Spade is started a new process that she is developing called recomposition, where the bodies of the deceased are composted into usable dirt instead of cremation or burial. I found this new technology fascinating and listening to Katrina Spade speak, I knew this is something that people could potentially be interested in. In fact, my husband had heard her speak on NPR a few months earlier and let me know his feelings on the subject:


According to the website, the mission of the organization is:

“Our mission is to create a meaningful, equitable, and ecological alternative for the care of the deceased. At the heart of our work is a system called recomposition, which gently transforms bodies into soil.”

You can find Katrina here:

This entire weekend reinvigorated my love of discussing the topic of death and dying and really helped me focus on what I wanted to bring to the table, mainly with genealogy and the death positive movement.

Have you ever been to a Death Salon before? Share your experiences in the comments below!

You can find The Hipster Historian on Facebook & on Instagram. #onfleekfamilyhistory

Personal Chatterings

What is Death Positivity?

In our particular field of talking about the dead (genealogy), we have very few conversations about the act of death itself. We tend to wax on about the causes of death, and how long someone lived, but straight talk about death doesn’t come easily to many of us.

And why would it? In our Western culture, for many years, death has not been something celebrated, praised or even talked about in polite company. Unlike other cultures, we Westerners tend to go by “out of sight and out of mind” mantra when dealing and discussing the idea of death.

But one group is trying to change that, and I’ve become part of that change. The Order of the Good Death was founded by L.A. Mortician and author Caitlin Doughty. Through this group, morticians, artists, writers, pathologists and other individuals involved in the positive death industry help bring these ideas, stories and unique ways of death to the forefront of our culture.  On their website they say:

Since becoming a genealogist, death has always been on my mind. It is something that no matter who you are, where you live or how old you are will happen to you. It’s the only constant in life.

Death is natural.

This is something I have found out first hand after landing a job at a local funeral home a few weeks ago. Every day I come face-to-face with death. Every day I come face-to-face with the people who are the stories we tell to our families. Every body that comes through my care had a life, had a story to tell and a journey they went on.

I feel honored to be caring for these individuals in their last stages of their mortal journey by taking care of their bodies with respect.

Not everyone can do this job (as I found out very quickly) but it is one that feels very natural to me.

So join me, be part of this positive death movement:


  1. I believe that by hiding death and dying behind closed doors we do more harm than good to our society.
  2. I believe that the culture of silence around death should be broken through discussion, gatherings, art, innovation, and scholarship.
  3. I believe that talking about and engaging with my inevitable death is not morbid, but displays a natural curiosity about the human condition.
  4. I believe that the dead body is not dangerous and that everyone should be empowered (should they wish to be) to be involved in care for their own dead.
  5. I believe that the laws that govern death, dying and end-of-life care should ensure that a person’s wishes are honored, regardless of sexual, gender, racial or religious identity.
  6. I believe that my death should be handled in a way that does not do great harm to the environment.
  7. I believe that my family and friends should know my end-of-life wishes and that I should have the necessary paperwork to back-up those wishes.
  8. I believe that my open, honest advocacy around death can make a difference, and can change culture.




Personal Chatterings

International Joke Day: Tree Jokes

As a long time writer, journalist and record keeper, I often come across old entries and rough drafts of online posts or stories that I’ve written. This particular one holds significance to me as it includes a personal story from when my husband and I first started dating.
This prompt came from Mama’s Kat (now Mama’s Losin’ It) and was originally posted on a former online blog Radical Geekery. Drumroll, please!
1. Share a joke that always makes you laugh
 Q : What kind of math is a tree’s favourite?
A : TWIG-onometry
Funny Joke
There is actually a story behind this joke. When I was a freshman in college, I had just begun dating my husband. Back then, we were creative in where we liked to hang out and what we did because boys weren’t allowed in certain places of our dorm rooms.
There was a small park with a couple of trees that we tended to frequent. These particular trees were just at climbing height and we liked to climb up into them and sit in the branches and talk.
One summer evening we were sitting we sitting in the trees just chatting and he looked right at me and said, “What kind of math is a tree’s favourite?”  Inwardly, I groaned slightly but loved it because this is the type of jokes my father and brothers always told growing up. When he gave the answer of “twig-onometry” I laughed really loud because it tickled me that the man I was dating was like my family. I knew he would fit right in with my family at that moment.
Share your favorite joke below!