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ALTERNATE ENDINGS released in August 2019 is a touching HBO film that depicts new and innovative ways to end or memorialize one’s life.  My husband and I watched it last night and it is a worthy watch. It is tender and informative and we enjoyed it.  

The film opens with coverage of the National Funeral Directors’ conference, considered by some to be the single largest conference in the country.  Many different booths were visited offering a variety of ideas about all aspects of end-of-life care. One of the interviewees stated that there is a dramatic change in burial and memorialization in our country, and I couldn’t agree more.  For instance, it was stated that for the first time ever, in 2018, more people chose cremation over traditional burial.

Taking Control

In one of my recent blog posts, I noted that there are now approximately 218 natural green-burial parks in the US, up from just 100 five years ago! Not only are more people embracing the possibility of having more control over the way they die, they are also taking control over what happens to their remains after they die.

The film goes on to highlight six specific situations in detail: 

  • Memorial Reef International mixes a person’s cremains into a concrete shell for placement in the ocean, helping restore the natural ecosystem of the reef.
  • A Living Wake, in which a large family throws a party for their elderly, dying father to make sure that “the guy who’s leaving knows he’s loved.”
  • Back to Nature Burials in Austin, Texas depicts a woman dying of pancreatic cancer who chooses her burial site in a green burial park.  After she dies, her friends and family lovingly prepare her body for burial and then have a beautiful ceremony for her to place her remains in the park.
  • Blast-Off Space Burials in New Mexico is an innovative project where families can put a portion of their loved ones’ cremains on a rocket headed out to space.
  • Medical Aid in Dying depicts a gentleman in Grass Valley, CA working with his physician to obtain life-ending medication through California’s End of Life Option Act.  He beautifully articulates his thinking for choosing this option, and we see him and his family planning the day. Then, with his family at his side, taking the medication and dying peacefully.
  • Celebration of Life is a heart-rending story about a terminally-ill 5 year old boy’s wish to have a celebration of life after he dies instead of a more somber, traditional funeral.  His parents lovingly organized a memorable celebration of his life for family and friends just the way he had wanted.

What Is Important To You?

I watched this movie twice, once by myself, and once with my husband. It brought tears to my eyes both times, and tears to my husband’s eyes.  It is a moving and thought-provoking movie. I highly recommend it as a way to begin your own thinking process about what is important to you at life’s end. 

Better yet, share it with a family member to start those all-important conversations. And then, when you are ready to complete your own advance directive, you will find a wealth of information, and even the state forms you need, on our website under Advance Care Planning.   If you prefer, call us.  One of our volunteers will be happy to walk you through the forms and answer any questions you may have.

End of Life Choices California is committed to helping people find their way through the important process of end of life planning.


End of Life Choices California offers information and non-judgemental personal support to anyone seeking help managing end-of-life care planning or decision-making in California.  Please visit to answer a variety of questions.  To speak with one of our volunteers, please call 760-636-8009.  All our services are free of charge.



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