2018 Vermont Death and Dying Symposium

Michelle Acciavatti



As an End of Life Specialist, Michelle Acciavatti educates people about their options at the end of life from the earliest planning period to after death. She is the co-founder of Green Burial Vermont and travels the state of Vermont educating communities on environmentally responsible burial practices. A hospice volunteer, pregnancy loss doula, teacher at the UVM end-of-life doula certificate program, co-facilitator of the Montpelier Death Café and all around Death Educator, Michelle joins us from Montpelier, Vermont.
Michelle will be presenting on Friday evening on Disposition with a focus on green or natural burial.

Info and how to reach Michelle: https://www.ending-well.com/


Nina Thompson



Nina Thompson founded the Wake Up to Dying Project in 2012 and currently is consulting with organizations that are working in the death awareness movement. She brings 20+years of entrepreneurial and business-consulting experience to the industry. She is experienced in community organizing, project management, event production, political campaigns, and organizational development. Nina draws her passion and capacity for this work from her experience founding and managing the Wake Up to Dying project over five years, hospice and chaplaincy volunteer work and Zen meditation practice. In 2014, Nina completed the Certificate program in Foundations in Buddhist Contemplative Care at the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care.

Nina will be guiding us mid-day Saturday with a meditation/contemplation called "Dissolution of the Human Body"

Info and how to reach Nina: myobiz@gmail.com 

Erica Buist



After living in Mexico for two years after college, Erica Buist moved back to her home country of London to become a journalist. She spent two years at the Guardian, and now works freelance. Inspired by her shock and trauma of finding her father-in-law dead in his flat after seven days deceased, she turned her grief into adventure and is currently visiting seven death festivals around the world. Erica joins us straight from Nepal when she will be taking a break to write her book, “This Party's Dead.” The publisher (Unbound) is taking preorders: https://unbound.com/books/deathtivals/ .

Erica will be joining us Saturday morning with a talk on her work on death around the world.

Info and how to reach Erica: http://www.thisisnotajourney.com/


Sandra Lazorcak



Sandra’s studies and disaster relief work with herbs and medicine has touched lives of those from India, Haiti, Palestine, Venezuela, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the United States. Born in India, raised in East Hardwick and dwelling now in her homestead in Orange Vermont, she currently is caring for 4 aging and ailing parents and finishing co-authoring a book on End-Of-Life Herbs. 

Sandy will be presenting Herbal Care for the Dying and the Caretaker on Sunday morning.

Info and how to reach Sandra: mandalabotanicals@gmail.com 


Hugo Mesa



Born in Bogota Colombia, Hugo Mesa and his 16 siblings migrated to the US in 1955. Unfamiliar with the foreign language and culture, Hugo found comfort in the arts and crafts. He was featured in Time Magazine for his recycled art work in 1971. Now a resident of Vermont for 27 years, Hugo draws in insiration from the changing seasons. Primarily wood, but also copper, glass and clay, Hugo is an incredible artist who can form the words of others inspiration into physical works of art that honor the human being they are intended for.

Hugo's work will be displayed and he will be at the Symposium mid day Saturday.

Info and how to reach Hugo: http://hugomesastudio.com/


Cecilia Lebovitz



Ceci Leibovitz is a jewelry artist focusing on embroidery and fabric. Ceci loves color and marvels at the infinite variations that can be made by mixing and matching it. Working from her home in Craftsbury, Ceci creates pieces designed to capture tender memories that the wearers of her necklaces will hold dear and near to their hearts for years to come. 

**Cecilia is unable to attend this year because of a recent death in her family. You may still put in specific requests at the symposium to have mourning jewelry designed **

Cecilia is not taking orders at present.

Jennifer Keppel



In the Danse Macabre, or Dance of Death, skeletons escort living humans to their graves in a lively waltz. Kings, knights, and commoners alike join in, conveying that regardless of status, wealth, or accomplishments in life, death comes for everyone. Kripalu certified journey dance instructor, theater performer, singer, hair and make up artist, Jennifer Keppel has worked behind the scenes and in front of an audience for three decades. Trained in herbalism, and astrology, Jennifer's connection with the elements, the planet and our universe inspires her own dance and draws forth confidence and a sense of peace in others.

Jennifer will be leading us in the Danse Macabre on Saturday evening.

Info and how to reach Jennifer: jennykeppel@gmail.com 

Mary Lauren Frasier



Coming from Massachusetts, Mary is a musician and basket weaver who fell in love with casket weaving while traveling in Southern Wales. She weaves for others but also wishes to teaches weaving to communities for people to make their own beautiful creations. 

Mary will be demonstrating urn weaving Saturday afternoon and have a woven casket on site.

Info and how to reach Mary: https://www.fraserbaskets.com/




Salicrow is a natural psychic medium who has been aware of her gifts since childhood. For over twenty-five years she has worked as a seer, using the tarot and runes as her tools. With her ability to divine the future and revisit the past, she advises her clients with compassion and a straight forward approach. As a medium, she helps people to connect with their beloved dead, family, friends, and loved ones who have passed, as well as make connections with the guiding spirits who watch over them. As an intuitive healer, Salicrow is dedicated to helping the beings of our planet and the Earth itself.  She has worked professionally in the field for over 25 years, and is the author of 'JUMP GIRL, the initiation and art of a Spirit Speaker.

Salicrow will be holding her Spirit Gallery late afternoon on Saturday (separate ticket)

Info and how to reach Salicrow: https://www.salicrow.com/


Francesca Arnoldy


Francesca Arnoldy, alumna of the University of Vermont, worked in the field of social services upon graduation, and (since 2009) as a birth worker. Her passion has been helping new families have safe, empowered experiences during pregnancy, birthing, and parenting. In 2016, a new opportunity allowed Francesca to broaden her perspective as a doula. For a year, she studied and researched the emerging role of an end-of-life doula and translated approaches for beginning-of-life care to supporting people facing death. She is the course developer, facilitator, and program director of the University of Vermont Larner College of Medicine's End-of-Life Doula Professional Certificate Program. She is starting a part-time job with the VNA as a hospice volunteer coordinator this fall.


Recently, Francesca wrote Cultivating the Doula Heart - The Essentials of Compassionate Care, and launched an in-person workshop. Her goal is to encourage people to hold one another's hands through life's intensities and sacred rites of passage. 

Francesca will be leading a discussion Saturday afternoon.

Info and how to reach Francesca: I feel like the VPR interview gives a good overview of doula work and the potential for collaboration within the realm.


Website: https://contemplativedoula.com

Next month's doula workshop: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/cultivating-the-doula-heart-tickets-47583659005

Jenn LeBlanc


Born and raised in Vermont's scenic Northeast Kingdom, Jenn attended Maine College of Art, with a focus on painting and later a BS in Integrated Biological Science, and  a minor in Anthropology during which she interned with the Chief Medical Examiner of Vermont. This experience, along with Jenn's lifetime fascination with graveyards and decomposition, has give her an appreciation and depth of knowledge into the biological connections of life and death in art and nature. Jenn has spent the last few years working at alternative schools with children with  severe behavioral and emotional needs, helping them gain the skills and abilities to be successful and deal with their trauma histories. She currently teaches Math and Science at East Meadow School in Morrisville. Through her work with children, Jenn is a strong advocate for mental health awareness, especially suicide prevention.  Jenn uses patterns and mysteries of the natural world, while demonstrating an appreciation of subject matter others might find disturbing, grotesque, or strange, including death.

Jenn's work will be on display and she will be on site Saturday afternoon. Info and how to reach Jenn: softstar@vtlink.net 

Anne-Marie Keppel


SYMPOSIUM PRESENTER ELEVEN: An advocate for those whose voices are unheard, weak or forgotten, Anne-Marie believes Community Deathcare and open conversation about death are crucial for the health of individuals and the planet. She is a death doula, certified funeral celebrant, Hospice volunteer, writer and event coordinator. She has traveled to sacred spaces around the world from Stonehenge, the Glastonbury Tor, Avebury Stone Circle to Cuzco and the Sacred Valley of Peru and Macchu Picchu. She encountered a curse in a haunted hotel in the historic district of Lima Peru, after touring the catacombs below the city (no kidding) and has visited dozens of burial grounds in North America, South America and Europe. After a meditation in the middle of the ancient city of Macchu Picchu she received a strong message to walk barefoot on the earth. She immediately removed her shoes, freeing herself from her fear of the dramatic heights and has walked barefoot through places she wants to "feel" since then. Anne-Marie shares openly with people about her life experiences and is working to improve traditional funerals, obituaries and eulogies and to educate people about community deathcare. 

Anne-Marie is the host of the event, will be leading the labyrinth meditation on Saturday mid-day and leading post-mortem care for your own deceased loved one on Sunday morning. Info and contact for Anne-Marie: https://stardustmeadow.com/


Locations: Casa Luna & Sterling College

Location: Sterling College



Though this event is *not* sponsored by Sterling College, it will be held in part on Sterling's campus and on the neighboring event site, Casa Luna. Please only direct questions to Stardust Meadow and Village Deathcare. Contact form at the bottom of this page. Sterling has a large open space conference room which comfortably seats 100.

Location: Casa Luna



Casa Luna is a private property and the event grounds of Stardust Meadow and Village Deathcare. It is adjacent to Sterling College and will host some breakout groups and the Danse Macabre. Casa Luna has it's own ceremonial grounds, outdoor fire pit, sheltered patio, garden house and outdoor meditation loft.

Location: The Phenomenal World


Morning Meditations will be held in the cemetery on Craftsbury Common