Before I Die Festivals Get People Talking About Mortality

Before I Die ABQ BannerIf you’re like most people, discussing your mortality is one of the last things you want to do. We know it’s true, because despite the fact that humans have a 100% mortality rate, fewer than 30% of adults do any end-of-life planning: wills or trusts, advanced medical directives or pre-need funeral planning.

But what if we could put some “fun” into funeral planning and preparing for end-of-life issues? That’s what Before I Die festivals are all about. The first one was held in 2013 at the University of Cardiff in Wales, followed by a second one in 2014.

This festival about dying – for the living – features theater, art, movies, panel discussions, field trips, Death Cafes and other events designed to get people to address their own mortality. Tapping into popular culture, performing arts and other outside-the-box activities help open the door to serious discussions.

Before I Die festivals are part of a growing social movement to foster reflection about how we as individuals and as a society manage death and dying. By providing space and opportunities to openly discuss end-of-life issues, we can improve the percentage of those who plan ahead and take action before someone dies.

The first Before I Die festivals in the United States took place in 2016, in Indianapolis, Indiana, in the spring and in Louisville, Kentucky, in the fall. Louisville will be doing a second festival October – November 2017. The first one in the western United States will take place in Albuquerque October 20-25, 2017.

Kel McBride, coordinator of Before I Die Louisville, is working to engage younger people in the discussion. “It’s tricky to engage those who don’t think they’re going to die. You need to get them in the right context, one that’s fun. You need to meet people where they are.”

The first Before I Die Louisville Festival had 17 events over a month, and more than 700 people participated. Activities included a historic cemetery tour, a poetry night, a Death By Chocolate event, and a conference that featured renowned death educator Stephen Jenkinson. Their second festival, October 7-22, 2017, adds a “Drink to Your Death” discussion in a pub, a theater production of “Tuesdays With Morrie,” music and discussion with musicians who play for the dying, and a daylong symposium on November 4.

In Indianapolis, 800 people attended 28 activities over three days. That festival was sponsored by the University of Indiana School of Nursing with a grant.

Before I Die ABQ logoThe Before I Die ABQ Festival will take place over six days all around Albuquerque, with most events low-cost or free. They include a tour of the Office of the Medical Investigator (the real-life CSI in New Mexico); “Prelude to Eternity,” a party in a cemetery; an art show titled “Earth, Air, Fire, and Water: A Celebration of Cremation and Art;” a movie double feature of Harold and Maude and The Seventh Seal; a ghost tour with paranormal investigators taking visitors to haunted buildings downtown; a yoga class, “From Child Pose to Corpse Pose;” and a series of panel discussions and Death Cafes at numerous locations around town.

Before I Die ABQ Festival sponsors include:

The festival is timed to take place after the celebrated Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, and before Halloween and Day of the Dead observations. Would any of these activities be of interest to you? New Mexico is beautiful in October! Learn more and register for events at