Celebrating life, thinking about death at a new kind of festival

Story highlights

  • The Before I Die Festival gets people thinking about wills, end of life care and funerals
  • Attendees are also encouraged to think about what they want to accomplish in their remaining days
  • It includes films, book discussions and death-related art

In a sunny patch of grass in the middle of Indianapolis' Crown Hill Cemetery, 45 people recently gathered around a large blackboard. The words "Before I Die, I Want To ..." were stenciled on the board in bold white letters.

Sixty-two-year-old Tom Davis led us through the thousands of gravestones scattered across the cemetery. He'd been thinking about his life and death a lot in the previous few weeks, he told us. On March 22, he'd had a heart attack.
Davis said he originally planned to jot, "I want to believe people care about me." But after his heart attack, he found he had something new to write: "I want to see my grandkids grow up."
    A chalkboard "bucket list" got people talking at the Before I Die Festival.
    Others at the event grabbed a piece of chalk to write down their dreams, too, including some whimsical ones: Hold a sloth. Visit an active volcano. Finally see Star Wars.
    The cemetery tour was p