Phil Castle, The Business Times
A new Grand Junction company takes on a profound subject, perhaps the most profound subject of all, in organizing a conference on dying and what happens after death.
While the conference won’t necessarily provide all the answers, the discussions will be free of dogma and designed to help those affected by death, whether they’re family members, health care providers or professionals in the funeral industry. “It’s less about the knowing. It’s about the sharing,” said Lynn Perez-Hewitt, who operates Illuminated Partners along with her husband, Jim Hewitt.
The company will produce what’s billed as the Final Transition Conference, scheduled for Sept. 11 to 13 at the Loews Ventana Canyon Resort in Tucson, Ariz.
Perez-Hewitt said it’s a challenge organizing a national conference without a national membership upon which to draw, especially as the first event for a fledgling business.
But given the widespread interest in the topic and credentials of the experts who will present at the conference, she expects 500 people to attend in person and thousands more to watch a live stream of the event or videos that will be available on DVDs or online.
Perez-Hewitt also expects to subsequently offer the Final Transition Conference perhaps twice in a year in other venues, including Nashville, Tenn., and St. Petersburg, Fla. And she expects Illuminated Partners to help put together other conferences. “We’re going to be the packagers.”
Perez-Hewitt brings to the venture experience in event management and public relations as a consultant and former executive with nonprofit groups. Jim Hewitt brings to the business experience as a data base and Web site developer. “Together we have this wonderful confluence of skills,” she said.
The couple decided to launch Illuminated Partners after a series of encounters led them to Mike Austin, a business developer in California, and in turn to Stephan Schwartz, an author and researcher who’s long studied the nature of human consciousness, including consciousness after death.
Schwartz had put together a proposal for a conference exploring the challenges and mysteries of dying and death, but needed help in actually organizing and staging the event, Perez-Hewitt said. “We are the answer for the geeks who put together the thinking.”
In addition to Schwartz, the Final Transitions Conference will feature speakers exploring the results of research into near-death experiences, after-death communications and past-life memories.
Still other speakers will explore other aspects of the dying process, including shared and compassionate care for the terminally ill, ethical issues that arise at the end of life and the meaningful and healing experiences that can occur as death approaches.
“Every one of these is a wow, and you just want to be there,” Perez-Hewitt said.
The conference will offer something for nearly everyone, Perez-Hewitt said, whether they’re family members caring for loved ones facing death or who have suffered a death in the family, health care providers who care for the terminally ill or those in the funeral business who often face difficult conversations with the families and friends of those who’ve died.
Continuing education credits will be available for participating professionals, including credits from state associations for funeral directors, Perez-Hewitt said.
In addition, though, the conference also will offer information to those simply interested in possible explanations to what happens after death, she said.
If nothing else, the conference can help promote more open discussions about death and dying, including conversations between aging parents and their adult children, Perez-Hewitt said. Increasingly, “the talk” between parents and children isn’t about sex, but death, she added.
It’s important, too, that doctors and their patients engage in the same talk about end-of-life decisions, she said.
The Final Transition Conference will be conducted at the Loews Ventana Canyon Resort, a venue that’s undergone a $14 million renovation, Perez-Hewitt said.
But she hopes the conference also will be offered at other Loews facilities, including venues in Nashville and St. Petersburg. Work on the initial conference will serve as a template for subsequent conferences, she said. “Why in the world would we do this only once?”
Meanwhile, Illuminated Partners is exploring work on other conferences and events, Perez-Hewitt said.
While the subjects might not be as profound as dying and what happens after death, she said she’s looking forward to the role Illuminated Partners can play in organizing those events.