Founder of The Parlor, Emerita Colon is all about launching mortality awareness is Chicago. Her own positive experience of a funeral “gotten right” in 2005 begged the question, why aren’t all funerals like this? Working in the world of death midwifery allows Emerita to contribute to a more community-direct, spiritual, hands and heart-oriented model of death care. However, her commitment to death positivity doesn’t stop there. The Parlor brings death related events to the city & one day aims to become Chicago’s first established mourning café.
– Emerita Colon –
Emmy Colon is a Death Midwife and Director & Founder of The Parlor, a death positive event series and soon-to-be mourning cafe in Chicago, IL.
When Ms. Colon is not spreading the good death in the Midwest, she is an ink and watercolor artist. Her work is made of the enigmatic things existing along the peripheries and strives to maintain strong connections to religious concepts, mortality, nature, and fantasy and horror. She is inspired by pathology and anatomy, monsters, and all of the insects that make the average American itchy.
“Launching Mortality Awareness in Chicago”
My Aunt Fela had a traditional Puerto Rican funeral to honor her passing in August 2005. To this day it still feels like the only funeral my family has ever gotten right.
“Gotten right” in that we acknowledged the loss before, during, and after. We acknowledged the individual we were interring. Some cried calmly, some cried violently and no one ever stopped to say, “Compose yourself”. We walked together from the church to the cemetery in the rain in the middle of the street. We took our time. Life temporarily paused for the recognition of Fela’s life and the acceptance of her death.
I frequently wondered and still ask myself: why aren’t all funerals like this?
Upon discovering death midwifery over a year ago, I realized many more services could be like this.
The work of Death Midwives does not duplicate the work of professionals such as doctors, nurses, hospice workers, or funeral directors. We instead aim to work alongside them by filling in the gaps. Our skills are not medically oriented, but contribute to a more community-direct, spiritual, hands and heart-oriented model of death care.
To hold space with someone and make them more comfortable and validate them in their final moments, not treating them like a patient but a person. Offering support to the families and friends of the one who is dying – it feels so natural, and it makes all the difference in the world.
While I appreciate the more passive, folk-based role of the Death Midwife and find it deeply empowering, my concurrent drive to address the needs of the community at-large requires the employment of a more hands-on approach. I realize my cohort, the Millennial generation, strives to find unique ways to explore death that are meaningful and speak to our collective experience with confronting mortality in this Internet-driven culture. Baby boomers, on the other hand, are eager for more honesty and candor in their end-of-life discussions and to have life-affirming conversations about mortality and their directives. Two huge demographics that locally and nationally need more attention. Across the board we all have grief stories to share, questions we are too timid to ask our loved ones, and we all want our wishes respected.
As Founder and Director of The Parlor – an event series and (someday) mourning café – I’ve committed myself to challenging the status quo and creating a space that acts as a safe haven to the death positive and curious of Chicago.
The name is a nod to the home funeral parlor of the 18th and 19th century and it emphasizes our desire to restore a sense of normalcy to the death dialogue in the city. The café component came later as we realized that even the toughest of subjects can be more easily digested when coupled with the breaking of bread. For the time being it is more than sufficient to borrow other spaces (we’ve teamed up with Uncharted Books in Logan Square and Woolly Mammoth Antiques, Oddities & Resale on our first two events). However, it is important to eventually move to a permanent brick-and-mortar in order to bringing more workshops, book readings, and lectures to the community.
As aforementioned, we have already held two events (one academic, the other a storytelling, conversational event commemorating Dying to Know Day) that speak to the community’s desire to have events of this nature. What has been a personal joy is attending events like this or even speaking to people one-on-one about The Parlor and walking away learning more (whether it be death, dying, bereavement, or the individual) than I did before. I am inspired by the successes of our first two events Death: A New Beginning and Mortality Monologues and by the likes of Death Salon, The Order of The Good Death, the Morbid Anatomy Museum, and countless other platforms and presences that inspire conversation and foster a sense of community and for some time has felt this is exceedingly absent in Chicago.
I am proud of what we’ve done thus far and I am eager to meet more of the death positive people the city through our future talks and classes. We may grow and change with the times and according to the needs of the community, but our core values: Empathy, Positivity, Innovation, and Conversation will remain the same. It is okay to be vulnerable and to grieve and be afraid. There is nothing morbid about talking about your mortality. You’re allowed to call the shots, design a funeral that speaks to your beliefs, and say no to embalming if that’s what you desire.
Come to The Parlor for a new experience, for meeting like-minded people who value compassionate care and conversation over death phobic convention, and for personal empowerment.
Remember that when you talk, we listen.