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‘Before I Die’ Festival aims to spur conversation on end-of-life issues

Albuquerque plays host to dozens of festivals throughout the year, celebrating everything from beer to balloons.

Friday marks the beginning of a festival celebrating something most people don’t want to even think about: death.

The inaugural “Before I Die ABQ Festival” aims to start a dialogue on the subject of mortality and planning ahead for one’s own death.

“My motto is, ‘Talking about sex won’t make you pregnant; talking about funerals and end-of-life issues won’t make you dead,'” said event organizer and death educator Gail Rubin.

By bringing some levity, humor and creativity to the subject, Rubin hopes the festival will encourage a conversation and educate people on the four biggest end-of-life issues: financial, medical and legal decisions and funeral arrangements.

The six-day festival will kick off with a panel discussion, “What You Need to Know Before You Go,” led by local funeral directors at 10:30 a.m. Friday at 3301 Menaul NE, Suite 18, in Albuquerque.

At 5:30 p.m. Friday, a “Prelude to Eternity” kickoff party featuring “Death Over Dinner” discussions will be at the Pavilion of Sunset Memorial Park. That event costs $25 per person.

Other highlights of the festival include “Before I Die” walls, where bypassers can use chalk to finish the sentence “Before I die I want to…” at Sunset Memorial Park and on the campus of Central New Mexico Community College.

On Saturday, local artists will showcase mortuary art including urns at the Mary Sharp-Davis studio.

On Sunday morning, historian Susan Schwartz will lead a tour of the historic section of Albuquerque’s Fairview Cemetery, established in the late 1800s.

Several funeral homes, crematoriums and end-of-life financial planning groups sponsored the festival, which Rubin hopes to continue next year.

“A hundred years ago, you had people still dying at home (by the way, you can do a home funeral in New Mexico still). Our society has gotten away from dealing with our own dead,” Rubin said. “These are hard questions that people don’t really want to talk about. That’s part of why we’re having this event.”

There are many other events planned through the end of the festival.

Rubin said those interested in attending events may register online at Events are free or low cost.