Stephen Garrett on the Lighter Side of Life and Death

by K-Berens

Stephen Garrett is not stranger to death.

Stephen Garrett is no stranger to death.

After the passing of his sister, Stephen has experienced and explored many facets of grief. However, Stephen’s view on death is not a negative one – in fact, he believes that death should be the opposite, an event that can be embedded with inspiration and positive communication.

Now considered one of the greatest speakers of death, Stephen’s motivational speaking encourages people to celebrate death, rather than mourn it.

Stephen gave mysendoff some very intriguing answers in an email interview last week, posted below.

Why death? Did you have any background in the field?

Death was never a big deal for me until I lost a dear sister to an unexpected death in May of 1988. I immediately got involved in hospice care and was a trained volunteer and coordinator. I totally enjoyed my time in the hospice field especially my time with families who were experiencing the loss of a loved one by death, the potential to connect at deeper levels of heart was always an inspiration for me and often times a positive result of a death.

Your unique views on life and death have caught people’s attention. Can you explain how your idea of “with every closing door, there is an opening door” and how it pertains to the death of a loved one?

Yes my view of death as a functional and inspiring facet of life, something to be embraced as opposed to denied, has turned some heads. For me and in my experience death is always accompanied by life – two sides of the same coin. Whenever death takes a loved one I have noticed a different loved one shows up in often times the most unusual ways. Nature will always bring balance to life so where a door seems to close all one needs to do is look for the door that is opening. When my dear sister Jody died, it felt like the door just slammed shut. Where could there be light in all that apparent darkness? Well I changed careers shortly after her death and opened the door to a whole new way of life for me.

What do you see happening with the funeral industry? Do you see a future for the traditional funerals most people are trapped into arranging when faced with death?

Yes I do see changes coming and I believe that families and friends along with the one dying will begin to take back responsibility for the celebration of a loved one’s life and in doing so may in fact help rename the ceremony from the old word funeral. I see some other cultures being much more public in the ‘community’ celebration of a love one’s life and I am certain a cross-pollination of ceremonies will take place. I am hopeful that people will become much more vocal with authorities and demand their ‘right’ to be much more involved in the natural process of death and care of a loved one’s body. With the wave of death coming our way as the baby boomers age and die we must find new more family and community based ways to mark this intimate time of life. Birth and death seem to have been made into some sort of pathology requiring all kinds medical professional support at the expense of family contact and home settings. My hope is that as a culture we realize the death is not an illness.

There’s a growing trend with the personalization of funerals. Are there any custom funerals you have attended that really resonate with you?

I attended a cremation ceremony in Bali that really turned my head around! As I watched and felt what was happening my heart began to sing! It was such a full and open community event that brought family and neighbours together in a loving and emotional way. It was a beautiful and heartfelt event that has me hopeful of what we can create here in Canada.

What would you like to have as your sendoff?

A party! I would love to have family and friends gathered around before I die so I can enjoy my favourite people and music and then simply slip away in the midst of the whole event, almost unnoticed as the gathering of friends and family is the whole point not my death. Once done I would love my family to take my ashes to Varanasi in India and spread them on the Ganges River!

Stephen’s book Embracing Your Death: A New Lease On Life as well as his other works are available on his website,

Read more:

Want To Have A Great Death? Have A Great Life | Toronto Star

©2019, All rights reserved.