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Talk Title: Who’s That?

Abstract: Throughout my career in death and dying, I’ve realized two truths: No one escapes death, and we will all take this final journey on our own. The question is: Have we truly lived life to our fullest potential? What does that even mean? There has been research on why people have a hard time talking about their own deaths. People say, “It reminds me of my own mortality” or “If I talk about death, death will come sooner.” However, through my hospice experience, I believe we avoid the death and dying conversation because it truly reminds us that we are not living the life we desire. So, we must first answer the question, why are we choosing to numb out, not be present, and avoid hard conversations that would only improve our human experience? It’s a fair question, right? I want to change how our community faces end of life. We often forget we are on a limited timeline. We get caught up in things that distract us from life’s important moments. And believe me, a dying person is quick to point out what truly matters because when time is limited or death is imminent, most hospice patients gravitate to the one thing we were born to do: to connect with each other, to connect with our loved ones and to connect with nature.

Bio: As Vice President of Outreach and Communications for Lower Cape Fear Hospice, one of my greatest accomplishments has been developing an advance care planning program known as Begin the Conversation. Begin the Conversation, a stand-alone community education initiative and mixed media campaign, includes advance care planning materials, healthcare resources, and an interactive website devoted to encouraging people to have difficult discussions before a crisis occurs. Through Begin the Conversation, I want to change how people spend the last years, months, and days of their lives. Begin the Conversation has grown both locally and statewide, and has even sparked national interest.