Get to Know Me

Choosing an end of life doula can be overwhelming. You have heard of a birth doula, but a death doula? Why do you need a death doula? Why would someone want to do this work?

I have worked in the healthcare industry for most of my life. A love for aging and dying people started even before I had my drivers license as I volunteered in the local nursing home in high school.

After graduation, I attended a hospital-based program for radiologic technologists (x-ray). Over the course of a few decades, I worked in various capacities in hospitals, clinics, private offices, and an imaging center. Nothing touched my heart like the job I had in a large hospice in Colorado. The mission of the work and the passion of the teams touched me deeply.

Returning to Minnesota (home at last!), I realized my heart for hospice was even greater than before. I found a volunteer opportunity with a local hospice. Then I heard Jane.

I heard Death Doula Jane speak at an event one morning. She told of tending to patients at end of life, and being able to bring presence and clarity to the process of dying, as well as support to the family. I finally found the name for what I felt I was supposed to do with my life. Death Doula! I had a deep down response to what I was hearing; something I never felt before. The universe smacked me alongside the head…I had to heed that call.

Meeting a person who is facing death is a place of awe and respect. They have lived their life and they (usually) know it is soon ending. I bring what is often called presence or ‘holding space’; allowing the patient and their families/caregivers the emotional and spiritual room they need to process the events surrounding them at this time. I assist where you need me; and I am there if you don’t even know what you need. I will walk alongside you during this journey, whether it is the first time you lost someone, or the tenth time.

It is my honor to attend to a dying person and their family. It is my honor to witness the last breath of your loved one. It is my honor to walk alongside you.

It’s Just Stuff…or is it?

As a member of MNDC (Minnesota Death Collaborative, a group of end of life professionals), I had the opportunity to hear a professional organizer, Su-Yoon Ko recently. Su-Yoon discussed the clutter in our own lives, lives of those facing death, and our loved ones who died leaving behind their legacy of ‘stuff’.

For some, clutter goes beyond the junk drawer but might not reach official hoarder proportions. There are many reasons we hold on to our stuff, from emotional attachment to time management, indecision, and everything in between.

Let’s unpack (pun intended) this a little. But first…full transparency here. I am of the time management AND indecision camp; paper clutter can breed on my desk. There are a few boxes in the attic – a permanent home for the contents still in question. There might be a collection or two that no longer seems worthy of dusting. A cookbook or twenty…I can find anything online these days with the exception of some of the little church cookbooks but I am not ready to part with them yet! There just might be a bag or two of clothing for donation, waiting for the ‘right time’ to run that errand.

What if I become unable to tend to my ‘treasures’ and purge my papers? I plan on living to a ripe old age, but what if that doesn’t happen? We are not guaranteed tomorrow. Time to tend and purge! Since I heard Su-Yoon Ko’s talk, I have cleaned the kitchen pantry, sorted random boxes of costume jewelry (there’s that necklace!), and this week, the office got my undivided attention. Shredding and dusting and pitching, oh my! I can find my desk and have space to write again! I have more energy for work now that the piles of papers aren’t taunting me. I won’t have a random can of tomato paste drop on my toe, and my husband can reclaim the floor of his side of the closet.

What about our loved ones and their lifelong ‘collections’? If she is ready, offer to help your granny go through her treasures. Bless someone else with your children’s toys and clothes. Find a library (or an aunty who reads) for your gently-used books. Offer useful items for free or have a garage sale and donate the rest. As for yourself, conquer the clutter while you can. Do you really want to leave this task to your family or friends if you suddenly become incapacitated?

If you are helping someone clear the clutter, be gentle with them. Getting rid of ‘stuff’ can be hard and emotional attachments run deep. It can be a daunting task for many, and for some it is downright overwhelming. What you see as junk-ready-for-the-trash-heap, might have sentimental meaning for your loved one. Now is not the time to judge; be present, be helpful, and offer suggestions when asked. And don’t forget the boxes, tape, markers, and trash bags.

If you lose someone dear to you, take your time sorting through their belongings. You don’t have to get this done all at once. It might take you five months or five years. Some things, you won’t ever let go. That’s ok. There are good reasons to keep a few treasured items. A dear friend has some of her parents’ clothes zipped into bags. Occasionally, she will open the bags and savor their scent. Some things are too precious to your heart. I get that. You can, however, make it easier on your loved ones by tending and purging your own clutter now. And who knows, you might find a $20 bill hiding in a pocket.

If you need professional assistance, I suggest you call Su-Yoon at 612-578-2031 or email her at

Who Will Be Your Voice?

I checked into a large hospital recently for major knee surgery. The Admissions clerk asked if I had an Advance Directive. Doesn’t everyone? (Sadly, the answer is ‘no’.). I gave her the pages to scan into my electronic record and felt confident that if something dramatic should happen, I had all my bases covered. Did I?

Health Care Agent. Check. Alternative Health Care Agent. Check. I even have additional resources for my husband, aka my Health Care Agent. CPR decision. Check. What I want life to look like if I have precious little of it left. Check. Notarized/witnessed. Check.

We filled out our Advance Directives a few years ago and as we learn more about end of life, we make changes along the way. It can be changed; it is not a one-and-done deal, although it can be. Filling in the blanks at the dining room table when there was not a crisis on the horizon made the process so much easier.

I reviewed my choices before I went into the hospital to make sure everything was in place and I had a little chill. It seemed ‘real’ now; it wasn’t dining room table talk anymore. If I had to complete an Advance Directive with surgery looming in the next 24 hours, I might have answered the questions differently. I would have been in panic mode and not had time to thoughtfully consider what I wanted.

Advance Directive. The key word to me is ADVANCE. Do it in advance. Do it before a crisis. Do it before your family has to mull over the decisions and hope they did right by you.

My husband will be my voice. If he gets to a place where he needs backup, I have that built in for him. He was a high school athlete; he understands the value of teamwork. Each voice on my team can assist, confident they will honor my choices and will not lose sleep in the future, wondering if they did the right thing. That peace is the gift I will leave behind.

Working and volunteering in hospice and employed by clinics and hospitals for most of my career, I have heard too many horror stories of accidents, strokes, heart attacks….on and on, and too often there isn’t an Advance Directive. Young adults are not immune to life-altering events; if you consider yourself an adult, you are not too young for an Advance Directive. Do the adult thing and get your plans in order. Do your parents, family, and friends a favor so they know what you want.

Who will be your voice? Remember, it is never too late until it is.

Welcome to Adeste LLC


Welcome to Adeste. I am Susan Lawrence, a trained end of life doula. By definition, an EOL doula is available to attend (adeste) to someone. I attend to the dying person and their caregivers in a non-medical role.

How can I, as your doula, help you celebrate your life and honor death? That is entirely up to you!

Legacy: As we spend time together, you can decide the legacy you want to leave behind. Maybe you want to record your history or write letters to your friends and family. A photo collage? A vision board of the dreams you have for your grandchildren? Do you have poetry you wrote, but never shared and now is the time? Maybe it is that secret recipe you want to share. Video and audio recordings are a special way for your loved ones to hear your voice.

Vigil: There is the time of vigil, when death is imminent. How do you want that to look and feel? I am available to sit with you and offer respite to your family and caregivers, to answer questions, listen, and most importantly, to walk with you and your family in these last days and hours.

Grief Support: I am available to your friends and family to reprocess their emotions and if desired, assist with an annual celebration/remembrance of your life.

These moments matter. This is about you. This is your design. I will walk alongside you.