What are Before I Die Festivals About?

How do we as individuals and as a society manage death and dying? Before I Die Festivals start important conversations in an upbeat manner.

We’re all going to die, yet less than 30% of adults do any end-of-life planning. No wills or trusts, no advance medical directives and no pre-need funeral planning. That means 70% of our loved ones will scramble to get information and make expensive decisions while grieving a death.

It’s better to talk about our wishes well before death becomes a grim reality and our loved ones can be informed. The Before I Die Festival concept can help

Festival History

Before I Die Festivals are part of a growing social movement to foster reflection about mortality.

These festivals have drawn thousands to events in Cardiff, Wales (UK), York (UK), Indianapolis, IN and Louisville, KY. Before I Die ABQ in New Mexico was the first such festival in the United States west of the Mississippi.

The inaugural Before I Die ABQ Festival took place over six days from Friday, October 20, 2017 to Wednesday, October 25, 2017 at multiple locations and venues around Albuquerque, New Mexico. Six hundred participants attended multiple upbeat activities to openly think about, talk about and do something about our inevitable mortality.

In 2018, events were held in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and Belen, New Mexico. The name was changed to the Before I Die NM Festival to reflect this growth. The festival attracted 685 people to 22 events over six days. The 2018 Before I Die NM Festival won the KIP Award for Best Event. This award is a significant recognition from the International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association (ICCFA). Learn more about the award here.

KIP Award Logo

The third annual Before I Die NM Festival was held November 3 to 10, 2019. It offered upbeat activities to think about, talk about and do something about our inevitable mortality. Activities included Death Café conversations, field trips to cemeteries, funeral homes and crematoria, movies, panel discussions, and a wide range of speakers. Events took place in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Taos and Espanola, New Mexico. A record-breaking 1,800 people participated in these events.

Also in 2019, one-day Before I Die Festival events took place in Bakersfield, CA and El Paso, TX. Greenlawn Funeral Homes, Cremations & Cemeteries in California drew 200 people to their one-day event and sold 20 pre-need funeral packages as a result. In El Paso, the event at Perches Funeral Homes took place two weeks after the Walmart mass shooting killed 22 people. The programming was changed to help the community process their grief.

In 2020, the worldwide pandemic shut down in-person events. The fourth annual Before I Die NM Festival was held totally online as a virtual event. While approximately 50 people registered to attend, videos from the 2020 Festival have been viewed more than 27,000 times in the 10 months following the live event. The 2021 festival was hybrid, with a combination of in-person, online and outdoor events.

Learn more about Before I Die Festivals in this video interview with Professor Jenny Kitzinger, curator of the first Before I Die Festival in Cardiff, Wales, and in this FuneralRadio.com interview with Justin Magnuson, co-founder of Before I Die Louisville. Gail Rubin, who coordinated Before I Die Festivals five years in a row, has created a guide for holding these festivals, the Before I Die Festival in a Box™.

Visit the Events Page to see upcoming conversation-starting events that may be scheduled.

Gail Rubin humorous motivational speaker for hospice
Gail Rubin says, “Talking about sex won’t make you pregnant, talking about funerals won’t make you dead.”

About Festival Coordinator Gail Rubin

Festival coordinator Gail Rubin, CT, is a pioneering death educator. She works with organizations to connect them with baby boomers concerned about end-of-life issues. A featured speaker at TEDxABQ in 2015, she’s the author of three books on end-of-life issues, including A Good Goodbye: Funeral Planning for Those Who Don’t Plan to Die and KICKING THE BUCKET LIST: 100 Downsizing and Organizing Things to Do Before You Die. In a previous lifetime, she was a public relations professional and an event planner.

Gail Rubin was recognized with the 2019 Women of Influence award by Albuquerque Business First. Find out why.