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Reimagine asks people to celebrate life while exploring death

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UCSF’s Dr. BJ Miller, pictured, second from left, on a panel in 2016, appears next week in Reimagine End of Life. (Courtesy photo)

One of the seeds of Reimagine End of Life — a seven-day multidisciplinary public program with talks, performances, comedy, workshops and visual art in San Francisco next week– was a thought its creator, Brad Wolfe, had as a young person.

“Death was something I was thinking about and scared of, and I wondered what was it about life that made people want to fight for it,” says Wolfe, who as a child heard stories of how his grandparents survived the Nazi horrors of Auschwitz, and at 21 lost a dear friend to cancer.

His question provides the basis of some 170 events taking place across The City from April 16-22 in Reimagine End of Life, a collaboration between artists, writers, social workers, health care workers, spiritual leaders and the public dedicated to opening up conversation about death, and, in turn, Wolfe says, “celebrating life.”

This year’s programming was inspired by 2016’s End of Life Challenge hosted by OpenIDEO (an online platform created by the Palo Alto-based design and consulting firm IDEO), which drew about 2,000 people to 30 events.

More than double that amount is expected at Reimagine End of Life, which is not affiliated with OpenIDEO and is presented by Reimagine, a nonprofit set up in 2018 specifically to program this series (and similar activities in New York and Cleveland) and has received substantial support by partnering with San Francisco’s Department of Aging and Adult Services and Palliative Care Work Group.

Among Reimagine’s higher profile offerings is a conversation with Pixar’s Lee Unkrich, director of the Oscar-winning animated “Coco.”

Wolfe is excited about the opening event, a concert and talk with indie folk band Cloud Cult, poet Marc Bamuthi Joseph, conductor Christian Reif, mezzo-soprano Renee Rapier, comedian Chris Garcia and hospice experts Dr. BJ Miller and Dr. Ira Byock; and the closing ceremony, a remembrance parade and outdoor commemoration — for people of all faiths or no faith — led by Rabbi Sydney Mintz of Congregation Emanu-El.

Festivities are for people of all ages, says Wolfe, pointing to Daybreaker’s morning Intergenerational Dance Party at City Hall, and a program of TED talks showcasing octogenarians.

Many programs are free, and practical, including a series of workshops, “Prepare for Your Care-Having Your End of Life Wishes Honored,” led by social service professionals at various locations throughout the week.

IF YOU GO
Reimagine End of Life
When: April 16-22
Where: Dozens of San Francisco sites
Tickets: $5 to $125; but many events free with RSVP
Contact: (415) 329-6911, www.letsreimagine.org/san-francisco

SELECT HIGHLIGHTS
Opening Night: Works inspired by death, loss, life and love with Chris Carcia, Cloud Cult, Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Christian Reif, Renee Rapier, Dr. BJ Miller and Dr. Ira Byock. [7:30 p.m. April 16, $30. SFJAZZ, 201 Franklin St., S.F.]
Bridge-Stories From Elders: TED-style talks feature people in their 80s and 90s. [6:30 p.m. April 18, $15. Verdi Club, 2424 Mariposa St., S.F.]
Reimagine Film Festival: Director Lee Unkrich screens Pixar’s “Coco.” [7 p.m. April 20. $25. Marina Theatre, 2149 Chestnut St., S.F.]
An Intergenerational Dance Party: Daybreaker dance parties hosts the morning, with yoga and dancing, coffee, snacks and retro tunes. [9 a.m. to noon April 21, price TBA, City Hall, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, S.F.]
Closing Ceremony: The commemoration includes a parade to a “secret, beautiful outdoor location”; participants are advised to wear comfortable shoes and bring a photo or an object of significance. [1:30 to 3 p.m. April 22, free. Meet at 2 Lake St., S.F.]

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