She was laying on a mound of hay in the warm sun, four sisters standing by. When we called “Hellooo Ladies” she didn’t lift her head.  It won’t be long now. He went to the back of his truck to fill a blue bucket with some cracked corn. It was her favorite. I stayed in the driveway with Fergus. We were on our way for a morning walk between the woods and the hay field. The path was still patchy with ice. He was on his way down the hill with the bucket. We watched.  He neared the old dying ewe, approaching slowly, and lowered the bucket to her mouth. Later he told me that she put her nose into the corn, elated as always, chewed twice and died. Snickers was always the first one out of the barn, calling with that brassy loud BAAHH that she got from her grandmother, Queenie. She had been a fine mother of twins, and twins, and then triplets. We had seen the shepherd bend on one knee and tenderly touch her goodbye. The spring sky was azure. Robins had arrived just that morning. It was a good day to die. 


Voices for Compassion – Community Forum 11.2.18

Over 70 people gathered to support our national pilot of a Compassionate Community at the 11.2.18 town forum, following a presentation by Professor Allan Kellehear.  Thank you all!

Want to be part of the next compassionate community conversation? Please contact: maryann@devanation.com

Voices for Compassion Community Forum - Verizon Reception Hall - Mankato, MN. Nov 2, 2018.

Voices for Compassion Community Forum - Verizon Reception Hall - Mankato, MN. Nov 2, 2018.

I’d like to address a couple of main questions that came from the group:

Q: Is a compassionate community about end of life or the broader need for compassion in all areas of life?

A: We are viewing compassion for end of life care through the broad lens of all the changes and endings in our life’s journey associated with loss. This includes aging, dying, caring, death and bereavement. It also includes the loss of a job, a dream, a relationship, a country, a culture, an identity or a loss brought on by violence. A compassionate community reaches out to all those who are in crisis or need. 

Q: How do we capture the existing compassion to care in our community?

A: One of our vital tasks is to link and leverage the existing resources through an asset mapping process. We will then provide education to the community about existing compassionate services by training “community connectors”.  Public awareness of our existing health, social, and community services will be heightened. Gaps in services, as identified by community members, will be created with the support of professionals and citizens working together.

A sampling of the Community Forum discussions:

  • We are not always great at receiving. The stoic, private culture of Minnesotans allows us to give, be we do not want to get. It’s hard to be compassionate when someone holds you at arm’s length.

  • We need to change the culture to one that readily gives and receives.   

  • Elders are experiencing one loss after another. How do they process these losses? Can we provide more spiritual and emotional support for elders?

  • Assisted living places are often close communities – not always wanting to share.

  • Chaplains could prep the way for families who are grieving; they could also help prep expectations and provide grief education.

  • Hairstylists know their clients and their families – this would be a good place to converse and support each other.

  • There is a lack of knowledge about resources. Healthcare professionals and social workers are not aware, families are not aware. How do we connect the dots, access resources and share them?

  • Grief and loss need more publicity, more stories - get the media involved.

  • We like the idea of poster campaigns and tool kits.

  • In schools there is currently a focus on anti-bullying, what if we did bottom up – increase the compassion focus?

  • Have high school students involved in Death Cafes.

  • Why can’t we talk about loss (death and dying) ahead of time with our young?

  • We need to have ‘helping’ become normal for all of us, especially children.

  • “It is better to listen than to talk” – as part of a grief awareness campaign, education and pamphlets.

  • We could hold a public health awareness month of grief and loss.

  • ‘Moth’ style storytellers on death.

  • What does an HR policy look like?

  • How do you get men involved? How do men share emotions?

  • Can we use technology in new ways?

  • Mankato schools could have no homework on Wednesday – an opportunity for compassion programming.

  • Public campaigns might offer people a nudge or support to reach out – strategies on how we establish relationships with others.

  • We need tools to start the conversations about helping each other. No one knocks on doors any more. How do we make it okay to reach out?

  • Encourage people to talk about death experiences. What helped the most? Tell us about what happened.

  • Let’s focus on the assets and joys that still remain for those who have Alzheimer’s or life-threatening illnesses.

  • Assisted living places are often closed communities – not always wanting to share.

  • How can we come together at the University to build community?

Want to be part of the next
compassionate community conversation?

Please contact:

Where is my 'seatbelt' for grief?

Ninety-five percent of the time that we are dying, grieving, or caring… we are NOT in a doctor’s office. Most of our experiences in health, wellbeing, dying and grief happen in the places where we abide and frequent in our everyday lives–our homes, schools, workplaces, churches & temples, parks and neighborhoods.  


We all have a fair amount of public health knowledge about the value of exercise and what to eat to stay healthy. We understand the importance of seat belts and bike helmets to reduce harm from accidents. We have policies in place to help prevent workplace discrimination. But where are the health and wellbeing policies, public education and awareness programs for death, dying, and grief? The aim of Deva Nation’s Public Health Social Palliative Care Movement is to get the level of public health information and education about dying and grieving to the level of awareness that public health efforts have brought to nutrition, exercise, diabetes, and smoking.

Since 95% of the health and wellbeing of dying and grief happens outside of professional care, developing compassionate social action for the end of life journey is in our hands. Compassion is more than action in time of need – it must include prevention, harm reduction and early intervention. Our current public health vision needs to move forward to include matters to do with death and loss. We can’t stop death and grief, but we can create policies, practices, education and awareness campaigns to help prevent, reduce harm, and provide early intervention for the isolation, depression, loss, and serious illness that surround our journeys through dying and grief.  

Mankato Blazes the Trail for Compassionate Towns USA!

YOUR’RE INVITED: Compassionate Community Presentation and Town Forum
Nov 2, 3-5pm, Verizon Reception Hall. Please RSVP maryann@devanation.com

We’re on the move to show America how community is the future of end of life care. “End of life?” you ponder, “Not now.” And yet, we experience death all the time. Each breath and each sleep is a death of sorts, every sunset and first snow is the last of its kind. Dreams die, as does our youth. There can be the death of trust in a relationship and the death of lost opportunities. And the death in goodbyes, even if it’s just out the door in the morning. I think you know already about the big deaths in life, the ones we deeply fear or those that break hearts.

End of Life includes all the endings, loss, and caring we experience in our shared adventures of being human; death is part of the human condition. If there is meaning in life, then there must be meaning in death. In our authentic connection with every day experiences and with each other, we can search for the lessons in endings. We can find ways to grow, to learn wholeness, and to practice compassion – for self and others. Imagine a whole town opening to the fullness of being, and of being there for each other.   

Compassionate Mankato:

  1. Harnessing existing resources and strengths.

  2. Building greater capacity for compassionate citizen engagement.

  3. Forging Partnerships: People + Health Institutions + Faith Communities + Arts + Media + Schools + Workplaces.

    We all have a role to play…and we all need each other.

Kellehear flyer.jpg


My son, Deva, died 36 years ago. I have grieved and do still. Night dreams continue to come and go: I’ve lost him, I’ve found him, I hold him, he’s gone. Deva still teaches me and I’m still learning to open all the gifts of his life and death. Here is a gift that took me by surprise - an invitation to participate in healing from One Bright Star and Twin Rivers Arts.

“Seven Artists have been paired with seven families who have each lost a child, to capture the essence of their child through an original work of art.” Thirty six years after his death, I’m invited to share the essence of my child. Yes, I cried. Overwhelmed with the honor of the community recognition and embrace of my son. Connection. Compassion. Community. Thank you.


An Evening of Discovery - Sept 6, 2018

You're invited to experience live music, guided conversation, hands-on art activities, and a keynote address by Conscious Dying Institute founder Tarron Estes at Mankato’s FIRST “conscious dying” awareness event. Join us on Thursday, September 6, 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Verizon Center Reception Hall (1 Civic Center Plaza, Mankato, MN). $25 per person. 

Immerse yourself in a new voice & vision for 'love at the ending'...


  • Tibetan Singing Bowl Sound Healing
  • Musical Devotion of Kirtan
  • Folk Guitar with Cajun Drumming
  • Visual Poetry and Guided Conversations



The End of Life Doulas are here!

People are hearing more about End of Life Doulas... what are they? The End of Life Doula movement is modeled after the Birth Doulas movement that has been enormously successful after it's creation approximately 50 years ago.

Deva Nation is helping to lead the national movement for End of Life Doulas, in the community and within health systems. Join us for Minnesota's first End of Life Doula Training in Mankato, MN Sept 7-8-9, 2018.

How Hospices Can Work with End of Life Doulas...

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A paper released last week by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) includes the "Top 10 Benefits of Hospice/End of Life Doula Collaboration".

What is an End of Life Doula? "End-of-Life Doulas (EOLDs) are non-medical companions to the dying, their families and their constellation of friends and helpers." 

Deva Nation and the Conscious Dying Institute are on the cutting edge of the future of end of life care delivery.  September 7-8-9, we bring the first EOLD Training to Minnesota! The Sacred Passage Doula Certificate Program prepares caregivers from all disciplines and care settings to befriend death, surrender and trust deeply in each moment and restore death to its sacred place in the beauty, mystery and celebration of life. It builds communities of care and healing, benefiting all those involved in care at end of life. We will be offering the 3-day Phase I and 5-day Phase II in fall of 2018 and offer the training again in 2019. 

Minnesota's First End of Life Doula Training: Mankato, MN (Sept 7-8-9)

Peaceful Living in the Sky World

Theresa Bear Fox, the songwriter, dedicates "Sky World" to those who have lost a loved one.

There is a sacred peace I find when I watch the Sky World Video and reflect on the life and death of my son. It feels right that he is now part of the Sky World living with the same strength, flow, beauty, and joy as I experience in the power of this performance. —Mary Ann

Let’s put our minds together as one
And remember those who have passed on to the sky world
Their life duties are complete they are living peacefully
In the sky world, in the sky world
They will never be forgotten, no more pain, no more suffering
In the Sky World, In the Sky World

Ha io ho we iaa
Hana io ho we ia he
Io ha io ha io ho we
Hana io ho we ia he
Ha io ha io ho we
Hana io haioho we ia
Iooho we ia
We hana io ho we ia he

Their life duties are complete
They are living peacefully
In the Sky World
In the Sky World

Teio Swathe is the singer and the dance is performed by Christian Parrish Takes the Gun, an Apsáalooke rapper and dancer known professionally as Supaman. Supaman will discuss Native American issues through looping art and rap Tuesday, April 3 at 7 p.m. 2018 in the Mankato State University’s Centennial Student Union Ballroom. I'm thrilled that he is coming to Mankato and hope to bring him back next year for a performance of the Sky World. Supaman is a master of engagement with powerful rap lyrics that inspire personal growth and community compassion. 

Source: https://youtu.be/qwcM9NPWWtc

What is my job now?

Déva, Bernadette & Whiskers

Déva, Bernadette & Whiskers

Our son’s death was a difficult one. A room full of machines with tubes entering so many parts of his small body. He’d been diagnosed at two years old -- after many brain surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy – with only two weeks to live. So why, 12 years later, were we so unprepared to let go? Over those years we had looked death in the face so many times but still did not have the strength (or support) to understand how to prepare for anything but the next surgery. His last few days in the ICU, I remember trying to hold the oxygen mask onto his little face. It hurt and he continually pushed it away. Through my tears, I continually pushed the painful apparatus back. It was my job to keep him alive. Could he have gone home months earlier to be with his sister, his cat, and his loving family? Death came to Déva, as it will come to us all. What is my job now? To invite us to hold close the face of our mortality, so that we become skilled, familiar and better prepared to accept when it is time for our journey to end. To invite us to have the courage to imagine and prepare for how we’d like to achieve the fulfillment of our work here. To explore and practice befriending death as the sacred and beautiful mystery of life into which we all eventually surrender. Déva was a shining one. The gift of his death to me is the light that never dies.   -- Mary Ann, Déva's mom