S4E15: The Finishers: Helping Overambitious Crafters Rest In Peace

Have you ever thought about what happens to all those half-finished projects crafters have when they die? Would your unfinished business be enough to bring you back to haunt your craft room? Well, there’s hope for us beyond the grave, thanks to programs like Loose Ends. Learn how two avid knitters built a network of volunteers across the world to help complete unfinished projects and return them to grieving loved ones.

Learn how you can become a “finisher” with the Loose Ends project HERE. (Image by Larysa_Shche)

Remembering Lisa Carlson

Charlie read us the wonderful obituary of Lisa Carlson, a force to be reckoned with as an advocate for low-cost funerals. She empowered individuals with the information to take care of their dead themselves, without the costs of a funeral director. You can read the obituary below, and we’ve linked her books in the resources section.

Below is the obituary for Lisa Carlson, the former executive director of the Funeral Consumers Alliance. You can also read a tribute that Joshua Slocum wrote for Carlson by clicking here.

Lisa Carlson died peacefully at home June 4, 2023, at the age of 86, having been cared for by family and hospice during her decline.

She leaves behind her husband of 40 years, Stephen Carlson; her son Stuart Mercer and daughter-in-law Mary Mercer of New York; her daughter Joie-Brackett Reeves of Connecticut; her son Shawn Brackett of Vermont; her stepson Joshua Carlson of Vermont; her stepdaughter Rosalie Carlson of Oregon, her brother Edward Shippen of Texas; her brother Eugene Shippen of Pennsylvania; her sister-in-law Laura Brackett of Vermont; her grandchildren Liam, Matthew, and Ellie Mercer of New York; her grandchildren Kadia Cox Brackett of Connecticut and Ellisa Cox Brackett of New York; and her grandson Kolbey Brackett of Missouri.

The family will announce a remembrance service for Lisa in the coming months. Condolences may be sent to the family care of Steve Carlson, 85 Upper Access Road, Hinesburg, Vermont, 05461. Mr. Carlson may also be reached at steve@upperaccess.com.

Lisa was born in 1938 in Melrose Massachusetts. During her varied career, Lisa was a schoolteacher in Massachusetts and Vermont, proprietess of her restaurant “The Hungry Pig and I” in Plainfield, Vermont, a saleswoman and installer of home vacuum systems, head of the state hospital in Waterbury, Vermont, and author of the first and only book dedicated to teaching families how to return to the time-honored practice of caring for their dead privately at home.

Lisa was a teacher by nature. She is best known for her work advocating for the fair treatment of bereaved people when arranging funerals. Lisa’s husband John Brackett died unexpectedly by his own hand in 1981, leaving her widowed with small children and little money. An unusually self-sufficient and resourceful woman, Lisa cared for John’s body at home and drove him herself to the crematory.

What may have been a practical financial move was also what Lisa would come to call the “final act of love.” Lisa rediscovered the old tradition of family care of the dead privately, and intimately, without the assistance or cost of a professional undertaker.

This lit a fire in her belly, and she felt compelled to teach others that the grieving do not have to part with their dead — and a great deal of money – in order to lay them to rest. In 1987, she wrote the book “Caring for Your Own Dead,” the first manual of practical care for the dead written for lay families. That same year, the New York Times covered Lisa’s story and her book, opening the eyes of millions of readers to the possibility of reclaiming the most meaningful and intimate moment in family life.

Troubled by the high cost of funerals and the deceptive sales practices in the commercial funeral industry, Lisa served on the board of a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping the grieving avoid funeral poverty. In 1996, she revised and greatly expanded her book into a new edition. “Caring for the Dead: Your Final Act of Love,” added practical advice for families who wished to use a commercial funeral home but who did not know their options, their legal rights, or the ways to hold a meaningful goodbye on a reasonable budget.

That same year, Lisa became executive director of the nonprofit she served, which soon became known as Funeral Consumers Alliance. Her leadership and research expertise made the organization the premier and trusted source for consumers, government, and media seeking objective advice on funeral planning.

During that time, Lisa assisted famous muckraking journalist Jessica “Decca” Mitford, on the 1995 updated edition of Mitford’s original blockbuster expose “The American Way of Death.” Lisa retired from Funeral Consumers Alliance in 2002 but remained active in consumer advocacy through her own nonprofit, Funeral Ethics Organization.

In 2011, she teamed up with her successor at FCA, executive director Joshua Slocum, to co-write a third edition of her book, titled “Final Rights: Reclaiming the American Way of Death.”

Lisa Carlson was a force of nature, and to some, an acquired taste. She liked to drink, smoke, and tell off-color jokes. Strongly opinionated and often uncompromising, Lisa could be at times difficult, as unusually passionate people often are. She was also one of the most caring and generous people one could hope to meet; the mentorship, instruction, and moral support she gave to students, family, and friends could never be recounted in an obituary.

Tough as nails and competent at any job she tackled, Lisa’s heart was tender and loving. She was often moved to tears by the stories of the families she helped through difficult deaths. Nothing satisfied her more than to see a family take her advice and discover that, yes, they could do this, and that it meant more to them emotionally than they could have predicted.

As she wished, Lisa’s body was donated to the University of Vermont for anatomical study. “I’m not going to need it, but medical students need someone to learn on,” she would say. Her friends and family suspect that the first thing she asked for on the other side was a double vodka, neat, and someone to chortle with over a bawdy joke.


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A poem about grief and love by Becky Hemsley
I held a party the other week and grief came.

She wasn’t invited but she came anyway - barged her way in through the door and settled down like she was here to stay.

And then she introduced me to the friends she’d brought with her - Anger. Fear. Frustration. Guilt. Hopelessness.

And they sang in the loudest voices, took up space in every corner of the room and spoke over anyone else that tried to talk.

They made it messy and loud and uncomfortable.

But finally, they left.

And long afterwards, when I was all alone,
I realized there was still someone here.
Quietly clearing up after the rest.

I asked who she was and she told me, “Love.”

And I assumed that’s why she looked familiar - because I had met her before.

“Or perhaps,” she said, “it’s because I’ve been here the whole time.”

And I was confused then because I hadn’t seen her all evening.
But when I looked more closely,
when I looked into her eyes,

I realized quietly that she had been here.
All the time.

She’d just been dressed as grief.


Becky Hemsley 2023

Sometimes it helps to remember that underneath our grief, there is love. It was there before, it’s there now and it will still be there afterwards.
Love endures like nothing else can.

‘Afterparty’ is from the book When I Am Gone: Poems for times of loss and grief. (Becky Hemsley, 2023) Available at: https://a.co/d/0vIfoqA

Recipe of the Week

A savory quickbread, Ham and Cheese Cake Salé Quick Bread is sure to be a hit at your next gathering! Learn how to make it here from Southern Living.

We are also selected as one of the Top 50 Grief Blogs on the Web!
Calling All Songwriters!!!

As a songwriter, ‘Everyone Dies’ is inviting you to showcase your original work on an upcoming podcast.

There are many wonderful songs that could be played at a funeral. We also know there are songs that could be played, but are cringeworthy (e.g. Ding Dong the Witch is Dead; Another One Bites the Dust; Ring of Fire, etc.).

We are inviting you to send us a recording of two of your original songs (i.e. that could be played at a funeral, one that is appropriate, one that is likely not) to be included in the third half of the ‘Everyone Dies’ podcast. We will include as many artists over the next year (maybe longer if we are enjoying the segment) as possible.

What we need:
Go to this link, fill out the form and submit it along with your two original songs in .wav or .mp3 format (i.e. two original songs that could be played at a funeral, one that is appropriate, one that is likely not). We will screen them and let you know what week your work will be included. We will include all your information in our show notes so people can purchase your recordings.

Cowboy playing his guitar by a coffin, and a dog howling. Coffin is vibrating... Learn about songs to wake the dead. Learn about funeral music at Every1dies.org

From Everyone Dies:

Everyone Dies: and yes, it is normal!

Everyone Dies (and yes, it is normal) is a story about a young boy named Jax who finds something special on the beach where he and his grandpa Pops are enjoying a wonderful day. Pops helps Jax understand that death is a normal part of life. This book provides an age appropriate, non-scary, comfortable way to introduce the important topic of mortality to a preschool child. Its simple explanation will last a lifetime. Autographed copies for sale at: www.everyonediesthebook.com. Also available at Amazon

Mourning Jewelry
mourning jewelry earings

We offer a way to memorialize your loved one or treasured pet with a piece of handmade jewelry.  When people comment on it and the wearer can say for example “I received this when my mother died” which opens the conversation about this loss. All our jewelry is made with semi-precious stones and beads, vintage beads, and pearls. You can choose between earrings or bracelets and the color family. Learn More

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