Once again in Northfield, hundreds gathered to hear Cathy Wurzer and her series on living and dying well: The Convenings.

Part two of the series, reConvening, gave the community the chance to share what it’s been up to since Wurzer first visited last May. Residents talked about the book groups, educational events and other movements started in Northfield over the last nine months.

The Convenings are put on at locations across the state by Minnesota Public Radio host Wurzer, the Twin Cities Medical Society, Honoring Choices Minnesota and The Bruce Kramer Collaborative. Wurzer became involved with advance care planning awareness following a series of broadcasts and eventually a book with Bruce Kramer, a former University of St. Thomas professor who died in 2015 from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Kramer detailed his life following his ALS diagnosis through a blog and met Wurzer through a mutual friend. The two began a series of 31 broadcasts, beginning a year into his diagnosis, which delved not only into his disease, but at times, philosophy. Those conversations started a larger one about how people prepare for death while embracing life. Kramer’s diagnosis provided him an opportunity to examine what was really important.

“When a disease or disability strikes, that’s the time you have to find a way to live creatively. He had to work to accept what he was facing, but he also had so much joy,” Wurzer said ahead of Thursday’s event. “He had a profound effect on me. He was the type of person you only run into once in your life.”

At Thursday’s reConvening, the lecture was accompanied by music, poetry and special guests, including integrative psychiatrist Dr. Henry Emmons, who discussed mindfulness. Sadie Rubin, executive director of The Convenings, said her favorite quote of the night came from Emmons.

In response to Wurzer’s question about a tangible step for people to take in achieving greater resilience, he said, “Learn to be present to your emotions; they will tell you what you need to know. If we stay present, in touch with what we’re feeling, allowing people to connect, we can find resilience in difficult times.”

Rob Hardy, Northfield’s poet laureate, also issued a “Call for Submissions” inviting people to submit a “poetic living will.”

Thursday’s event marked the end of The Convenings in Northfield. However, Wurzer and the team will continue working with communities to promote living and dying well, and Northfield has already established an Advance Care Planning Advisory Council, which will establish initiatives to help local residents with aging.

Reach Associate Editor Philip Weyhe at 507-645-1115 or follow him on Twitter @nfnphilweyhe.

©Copyright 2018 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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