Death By Design


Kimberly C. Paul wants to radically change the way people face end of life, and she’s using her extensive experience as a storyteller to do just that. From the set of Saturday Night Live in New York City, to casting for ... More

Helen Whitney, Writer, Director, Producer

Season 3, Ep. 4


Emmy and Peabody award-winning, film producer, director and writer Helen Whitney has been a prolific creator of documentaries and feature films. Her compelling subject matter has included topics such as youth gangs, presidential candidates, the McCarthy era, mental illness, Pope John Paul II, Great Britain’s class structure, homosexuality and photographer Richard Avedon. Among the actors she has worked with: Lindsay Crouse, Austin Pendleton, David Strathairn, Brenda Fricker, Teresa Wright, Estelle Parsons.

Throughout her career, she has maintained a deep interest in spiritual journeys, which she first explored with her documentary The Monastery, a 90-minute ABC special, about the oldest Trappist community in the Americas. Whitney followed this film with a three-hour Frontline documentary for PBS, John Paul II: The Millennial Pope, and in 2007 she produced The Mormons, a four-hour PBS series that explored the richness, complexities and controversies surrounding the Mormon faith. Following the Sept. 11 attacks, she produced Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero, a two-hour documentary that examined how religious belief – and unbelief – of Americans was challenged and altered by the spiritual aftershocks of 9/11. The film has been repeated numerous times since it first aired in 2002, and it was a PBS featured presentation on the 1st and on the 10th anniversary of the attacks.

One of Whitney’s recent works examines the power, limitations, and in rare cases, the dangers of forgiveness through emblematic stories ranging from personal betrayal to genocide. This film involved shooting throughout America, and such countries as South Africa, Germany, Rawanda, The three-hour series, Forgiveness: A time to Love and a Time to Hate, aired on PBS in 2011 and it also inspired Whitney to write a book of the same title, with a forward written by the Dalai Lama.

The filmmaker has also received an Academy Award nomination, the Humanitas Prize, Emmys, two DuPont-Columbia Journalism Awards and many other recognitions for her work. She is a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and has presented her films and lectured at universities, museums and churches around the country (including Yale, Princeton, Harvard, Brigham Young, Stanford, the National Cathedral, the Corcoran Gallery, the Minneapolis Art Institute). 

Into the Night: Portraits of Life and Death, a two-hour feature documentary, features fascinating, unexpected voices from various walks of life: old and young, believers and nonbelievers, the dying and the healthy, well known and obscure. Among them: Caitlin Doughty, an alternative mortician and bestselling author with her own YouTube following; Adam Frank, an astrophysicist and NPR commentator, Gabriel Byrne, renowned actor of stage and screen; Jim Crace, award-winning novelist and environmentalist; Max More, a cryonicist and futurist; Stephen Cave, a British philosopher; Phyllis Tickle, a near-death experience spokesperson and religious historian; Pastor Vernal Harris, a Baptist minister and advocate for hospice care in African-American communities; Jeffrey Piehler, a Mayo Clinic heart surgeon. However varied their backgrounds, all are unified by their uncommon eloquence and intelligence, and most important by their dramatic experience of death. Each of them has been shocked into an awareness of mortality–and they are forever changed. For them death is no longer an abstraction, far away in the future. Whether through a dire prognosis, the imminence of their own death, the loss of a loved one, a sudden epiphany, or a temperament born to question, these are people who have truly ‘awakened’ to their own mortality.

Into the Night creates a safe smart place that allows people to talk about a subject of universal importance. It is the conversation we yearn to have, but too often turn away from in fear and distress. Yet our culture is at a critical turning point, driven in part by the baby boomer generation that is insisting on a new openness and on this deeper conversation. Our film speaks to this emerging movement with a novel approach meant to provoke searching conversations, both private and public.

Ultimately the film is meant to raise questions, not to provide answers. How could it? Death is “that undiscovered country,” as Hamlet so famously described it, “from whose bourn/No traveler returns.”


Roberta MacDonald, Cabot Cheese

Season 3, Ep. 3

Filling the Gap in End of Life

In August 2018, Cabot Cheese became the top sponsor of the Live Well Die Well Tour. When Kimberly C. Paul asked Roberta MacDonald why Cabot was interested in being the top sponsor she stated, "We are a Co-operative of Farm Families since 1919, our farmers have seen the cycle of life and death on the farm. They taught their children about life and death. The farmers have found a way to normalize the life cycle conversation. We thought we might help assist you and others on your Live Well Die Well Tour." Cabot Cheese sends cheese to all Kimberly's speaking engagements when requested.

Cabot Cheese has also has supported many Hospice projects as well as the death doula program at the University of Vermont. Roberta MacDonald has been the fire-starter and continues to personally volunteer her own time at her local hospice.

Death is a natural part of life. Even so, talking about death feels anything but natural.

According to the National Palliative Care Center, 20 percent of the United States’ population will be over age 65 by the year 2030—that’s more than 60 million people. Chances are, a significant portion of these seniors will be diagnosed with a terminal illness.

A recent article in the New York Times reported that, on average, patients make 29 visits to the doctor’s office in their last six months of life, even though 80 percent of patients say they hope to avoid hospitalization and intensive care at the end of life. Our healthcare system is designed to save lives—or attempt to do so—regardless of the outcome or impact on a patient’s quality of life. However, our healthcare system is only beginning to recognize the value of high quality end-of-life care.

Fortunately, there is a growing movement that helps fill the critical gap in end- of-life care. For the terminally ill, dying is a process they’re living through. End of-life doulas (also known as death doulas, soul midwives, transition coaches, and more), help the dying live better throughout the process—and ultimately die well.