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End-of-Life University

100 EpisodesProduced by Karen Wyatt MDWebsite

Dr. Karen Wyatt, hospice physician and author of "7 Lessons for Living from the Dying," interviews experts on all aspects of the end-of-life, including: caring for the dying, funeral and burial practices, planning for the end-of-life, conscious dying, grief and loss, caregiver support, afterlife, de… read more


Ep. 352 Cross-Cultural End-of-Life Practices with Gary Wederspahn

Learn about fascinating end-of-life rituals from cultures around the world.

My guest Gary Wederspahn is a board member of the Final Exit Network and the author of a book and many articles on cross-cultural communications and relations. He has served as a Peace Corps Director in Guatemala, Costa Rica and Ecuador and has traveled in over 20 countries. He shares his passion for studying end-of-life rituals and traditions wherever he has traveled, including slides from many different countries. Learn more at these websites:

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This episode includes:
  • What is appreciative inquiry and how it facilitates conversations
  • Why studying end-of-life traditions introduces you to the values and deep culture of societies
  • How end-of-life care has been outsourced here in the U.S. to our detriment
  • Mayan traditions around death in Guatemala during Dia de los Muertos
  • Three-part community cremation rituals in Bali
  • The “thin veil” between the living and the dead that is perceived in many cultures
  • How “continuing bonds” with ancestors help strengthen the family
  • The use of cremated ashes to make burial beads in Korea
  • How Vietnamese funeral processions resemble funeral parades in New Orleans
  • Ceremonial kites flown in Guatemala city to honor their ancestors during Dia de los Muertos
  • Zoroastrian custom of leaving corpses in “Towers of Silence” for vultures to consume
  • Ifugao people in high country of Philippines keep bodies of their ancestors in rafters of the house and bring them out during special events
  • “Bone collecting” ritual after cremation in Japan
  • Igorot hanging coffins in the Philippines
  • Tibetan sky burial also depends on vultures; Sioux burial platforms similarly rely on ravens to consume the body
  • How Gary’s exposure to the rituals of other countries has informed his own decisions for the end of life
Links mentioned in this episode:

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If you enjoy this content please share it with others and consider leaving a review on iTunes. Thanks again to all supporters on my page at, especially my newest patron Erinn Gregory! Your contributions make all the difference.

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