A nonprofit is experimenting with shared meals where participants are asked to grapple with their own mortality.

In late January, in an Arts and Crafts house on a hill in Point Reyes, California, about 40 people—friends and family of Michael Hebb—gathered in a candlelit room at dusk. There, they witnessed pallbearers carrying the open, handmade cedar coffin in which Hebb was laid out, completely in white.

For the better part of three hours, those attending the ceremony, including Hebb’s 15-year-old daughter, took turns expressing what he meant to them. There was wailing and even some occasional levity as those assembled went around in a circle sharing “Michael stories.”

His eyes closed and his body motionless for the full three hours, Hebb heard every word that was said about him.

This was a living funeral.

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