Gail Rubin and Erika Lohr at Before I Die NM Festival in 2019

Before I Die Festival Coordinator Gail Rubin (L) and Erika Lohr (R) at Fairview’s Dia de los Muertos event.

The Before I Die New Mexico Festival in 2019 was a big success! We had a total of approximately 1,800 participants at 37 events over eight days in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Taos, and Espanola. The Dia de los Muertos celebration in Fairview Memorial Park drew 1,500 people to that one event!

Festival participants could enter a drawing to win great prizes over the course of the events, held November 3 to 10, 2019. Congratulations to these winners who entered the Before I Die Festival prize drawings!

Festival Prize Drawing Winners:

A cremation niche at Sunset Memorial Park: Dave Koepsell

A cremation niche at Fairview Memorial Park: Richard Tafoya

One of two full body burial plots at La Puerta Natural Burial Ground southeast of Belen: Jasmine Galvan and Sharon Serrano

One of two binder/information organizers: Brenda Cole and Patti Lentz

An estate plan from Morris Hall, PLLC (a $3,500 value): Forrest Courtney

Attorney Jim Plitz with Morris Hall has offered everyone who attended the Festival a free estate planning consultation. If you’re interested, call him at 505-889-0100. Let him know you were a Festival attendee or are simply interested in speaking with him.

Festival Feedback

Jim Plitz with Morris Hall at Before I Die NM Santa Fe

Attorney Jim Plitz with Morris Hall speaking at the Before I Die NM Festival event in Santa Fe.

We received positive feedback about the Before I Die New Mexico Festival. Here are some quotes attendees provided:

“A wonderfully informative festival that provides information, wisdom and humor in planning for the end of life. A great way to look on the bright sides of both life and death.”

“Gail Rubin’s “Before I Die” is truly a festival.  The Death Cafe welcomed all of us, and the tour of DeVargas took us behind the scenes and answered our questions.  The whole day was relaxed, filled with both respect and humor.  Definitely recommending it next year to both friends and family.”

“I would recommend  this program to everyone. There is so much information that everyone needs.”

“Just wanted to let you know the Before I Die Festival was really helpful. My former mother-in-law passed away the night before the seminar at Strong-Thorne. Over the weekend I spoke with my ex about arrangements and everything. He thought he had to call South Carolina to find someone to get her body from Texas to be buried at the National Cemetery in Florence, SC. He was dreading the amount of work it would entail. I relayed the funeral directors should be able to handle all of this. They did, all he needed to do was sign and pay. Thanks for the incredibly timely info. It saved all of us from a huge amount of angst and paperwork!”

Based on feedback we’ve received, we are looking to hold the Festival around New Mexico again next year! We will likely change the dates to primarily weekends in various towns in October and November. We would like to make more of the events accessible to those who work during the week.

Videos To Come

A number of speakers and panel discussions throughout the Festival were video recorded. These include Petra Orloff with Beloved on obituary writing, Daniel Gaillour on aging in place, Jim Plitz on estate planning, and these great panel discussions: “Is There Life After Death?” “What Death Doulas Do,” “Millennial Morticians with ABQ Brews,” “We Love Our Pets,” and “Jewish Burial is Green Burial.” You can see the videos online through this page on the Before I Die NM Festival website.

News Coverage Included:

We had some great news coverage, including print, podcast, radio and television interviews. Here are links to a number of stories.

Albuquerque Journal: End of the Line

‘Before I Die Festival’ takes a lighthearted look at planning for a funeral. This November 1 story looks at the creation of the online video filmed at the Route 66 Diner to promote the Before I Die Festival. Here’s the long version, clocking in at one minute and forty four seconds.

Santa Fe New Mexican: Workshops in New Mexico aim to take the scare out of dying

The Grim Reaper is welcome in at least one home in New Mexico.

Gail Rubin of Albuquerque has two black cats, a penchant for button-ups with embroidered skulls, matching cowboy boots stitched with neon calaveras — and she can’t stop talking about death.

She’s got the certificate to prove it.

Rubin, 61, uses her background in event planning and public relations to try to help people think about their funerals, wills and plan for their deaths.

Her technique to broach a touchy topic? Jokes.

No, seriously.


The Taos News: Let’s Talk About Death. It Won’t Kill You.

The Before I Die New Mexico Festival Comes to Taos.

Planning for your death can seem strange, creepy and, in some cultures, is actually taboo. But for others, facing and planning for death is comforting and a way to ease what is inevitable for the loved ones left behind. READ MORE

Los Alamos Monitor: ‘Before I Die’ Festival set for Nov. 5

A local group hopes a trendy new death-themed festival will help people look at the end of life in a more positive light.

“This full day of death-positive experiences helps people discuss end-of-life issues and encourages planning ahead for our 100% mortality rate,” according to Gali Rubin, one of the coordinators of the “Before I Die New Mexico Festival.” READ MORE

The Children's Hour in-studio
Host Katie Stone and the Kids Crew on the Children’s Hour radio show

The Children’s Hour on Public Radio

On October 24, The Children’s Hour radio program interviewed Gail Rubin about Dia de los Muertos traditions as part of a program devoted to children and grief. LISTEN HERE

KOB-TV Morning Interview

On October 31, Sean Wells spoke about the Dia de los Muertos tradition of face painting and Gail Rubin was interviewed about the Before I Die New Mexico Festival.

New Mexico Living (KRQE/KASA-TV)

Death is something everyone experiences and the Before I Die New Mexico Festival is giving people the opportunity to learn about and plan ahead for our inevitable mortality.

Festival coordinator Gail Rubin explains that many people fear death or the topic of it and that the festival provides visitors an opportunity to discuss it as well asl plan for it. These festivals originated in the United Kingdom and this will be the third year in New Mexico.

The event will feature a Dia de los Muertos celebration in a cemetery, behind-the-scenes tours at funeral homes and cemeteries, films, speakers, games, and Death Cafe conversations.

The 2019 Before I Die New Mexico Festival will take place on November 3 through November 10 in Albuquerque, Taos, Española, and Santa Fe.

What’s Up ABQ Podcast

This is a podcast dedicated to ABQ and all who love our city featuring interviews with local business owners, artisans, thinkers, dreamers, and lovers of ABQ. Hosts Lindsey and Ryan interview Gail Rubin, CT, The Doyenne of Death, and coordinator of the Before I Die New Mexico Festival. LISTEN HERE

Thank You to Our Sponsors

A big thank you to our sponsors who made the 2019 Before I Die New Mexico Festival possible, and most of the events free:

Partners include the Berardinelli Family Funeral Service, Compassion & Choices NM Action Team, The Guild Cinema, obituary and eulogy writing service Beloved, mortality-reminder website, end-of-life planning website, Tractor Brewing Company, the Jewish Federation of New Mexico, the Jewish Community Center of Greater Albuquerque, and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UNM.