What A Year Can Bring

The Action Mill rolled out this Death and Design website on January 3, 2013. Over this past year, we’ve highlighted some 40 projects – close to home and around the world - that work to unhide death in our daily lives. Learning to talk easily throughout the lifespan about the apparatus of death – advance directives, wills, funeral plans – is critical.  But as Action Mill partner Jethro Heiko has observed “If the challenge is conversation and people aren't having it, don't give them a document. Give them a conversation.” And that is exactly what the Action Mill’s My Gift of Grace is designed to do.

In the same experiential vein is Stephen Levine’s classic book A Year to Live: How to Live This Year as If It Were Your Last Levine invites readers to undertake their own experiment over 12 months to practice dying by reflecting on the fear of dying, undertaking a life review, keeping a journal, contemplating dying through a guided meditation, and even disposing of the corpse. Originally published in 1997, the book has inspired people to form Year-to-Live groups where these questions and themes are explored together. In the appendix, Levine suggests how such groups might tackle the book’s exercises on a month-to-month basis, with the admonition to avoid linear thinking. No matter the approach taken, Levine leaves us with an energizing conclusion:

“Ironically, after I have spent a year practicing dying the quality most noticeably enhanced is a new joy in life.”

A Gift of Grace: Winner of the End-of-Life Care Challenge

We are pleased to announce that The Action Mill's submission to the Health Care Experience Design End-of-Life Care Challenge was named Best Solution Focusing on Advanced Directives. (The Action Mill is the design consulting firm that created and runs the Death & Design project.) 

Our submission, A Gift of Grace, is a set of cards with prompting questions, activities, and phrases to help people comprehend the complex issues involved in end-of-life care, and determine their own specific preferences for that care. We designed A Gift of Grace to tap into existing social networks by providing a way for people to honor a loved one who is living with a terminal illness or is in hospice care, and for families or other tight-knit groups to have conversations about their wishes but also share and reaffirm the activities that make them feel most alive. Watch a detailed explanation of A Gift of Grace in our video entry below.

The Action Mill team benefitted immensely from the deep knowledge of advanced care planning provided by Dr. Karl Ahlswede, who joined us in designing A Gift of Grace. Dr. Ahlswede is a former surgeon and one of the first to be given the specialty board certification in Hospice and Palliative Medicine. He provides unique services for advanced care planning based on a custom approach to establishing patient values, which we drew on heavily to design A Gift of Grace.

Update: Since we won the End-of-Life Care Challenge, we've run a Kickstarter campaign to create this product. Check out mygiftofgrace.com to find out more. 

We'll be featuring the other winners of the End-of-Life Care Challenge on Death & Design in coming weeks.  To view the other winners of the challenge, and all the submissions, click here