Podcast #148 Bonus Tracks with a Thanatologist and an Animal Doula – Kim Mooney and Kayla Nakano

I’m pulling from the “old files” for this one! I spoke with Kim Mooney on BLBD podcast #71 and #72 and with Kayla Nagano on #74, and with this episode you can hear more from each of them! Kim = renowned thanatologist plus huge advocate for compassionate end-of-life options in Colorado and beyond. Kayla = podcaster and expert in all things animals and end of life. Enjoy this episode of “bonus tracks” from my past recordings with these two experts.


Diane Hullet: Okay,

so Kim, Kim Mooney and I just finished our recording and we’re just going to do a tiny little bit of bonus here. I was just chuckling. I was asking her what her favorite things are to read. And, uh, she says, no more death books. So you said what you read before bed is. Cheap cop novels. 

Kim Mooney: I love that. How to get away.

You know, that’s something we could talk about easily, is how do you take care of yourself when you’re thinking about death? Because there’s such a line. I had a man who is now in very bad shape physically. When he was 50, I said, here’s my gift to you. I’ll do your advanced care planning with you. And he said, one of the most dreaded responses we hear, I prefer to focus on life.

I don’t want to focus on death. And that’s a hard place to start with people. Yeah, it’s 

Diane Hullet: very interesting that people think if they talk about death, it’s somehow missing, uh, uh, it’s missing life, whereas for me, it’s just been a fascinating trip into life, very much into life. 

Kim Mooney: Well, if you look at most of the great literature, everybody says the same thing.

You can’t, you can’t live well unless you die well. I mean, this is, it’s so tied in. The only way to appreciate your life and really go for it, is to recognize your mortality. If you think it’s endless, you’re careless. You know, so I think that that’s what we’re seeing a lot of people I’ll tell you one way our generation does it.

You look at a picture of Mick Jagger and it’s a momentary wake up call. Just watching how much people are aging and who’s cutting out. And so, there are healthy ways to get into this. You know, we, we tell people to enter the realm where you’re not terrified. Start by looking outside. You know, talk about it when Michael Jackson died.

Talk about it when, You know, influence. How come Princess Diana, what is it about spontaneous moral memorializations of people that we don’t know and thousands of people are affected, maybe because they didn’t get the chance to do that in their own lives in a healthy way. So there are a lot of entry points that are not necessarily, and as I think I said in another session with you, sitting down with somebody and talking about your death immediately is not skillful.

Yeah. Nobody’s going to go there. That’s that line. Yeah. So, you know, in some of my classes, we, we, I have a beautiful PowerPoint with deaf traditions around the world. And it is amazing. You know, in Ghana, you, your coffin, these stylized coffins, they’re, you design one based on who you’ve been. So one woman had a giant iron.

You know, and a man who sold cigarettes was buried in a Marlboro box and, you know, and that, that you start preparing for a lot earlier. Well, people can hear that. It’s pretty interesting. 

Diane Hullet: Very interesting. I read, I read Caitlin Doughty’s book. It’s a book about traditions all around the world. She travels around and writes.

One of the things I thought was interesting about it is she doesn’t put any photographs in, but she puts these black and white drawings. And so there are these great little drawings like of Day of the Dead in Mexico and talking about how that’s been kind of a, yes, there’s truth to it. And yes, it’s kind of a created thing that’s become this bigger thing, but beautiful little drawings.

And so you kind of see it without having to see a picture because one of the places she goes is in Indonesia where they actually take their dead out of the, um, what would you call them? Not, not coffins exactly, but like, um, what are those little buildings that you put a body in? 

Kim Mooney: Oh yeah. Mausoleum.


Diane Hullet: They take the bodies out and like change their clothes and, and dress grandma and grandpa and put them back in. And they, they do this at regular times of the year. So again, yeah. Seeing that in a little black and white drawing and reading about it was better than a photograph would have been.

So I love that she did that. But the book really kind of did open up my mind. I thought, my God, you know, you swim here in the U. S. culture and you just think, well, this is how death is done. Not at all. It’s so varied around the world. 

Kim Mooney: And we have, by the way, I have a KGNU radio show I’ve done for nine years on anything I want around death and dying.

And some of the topics are about things like this. You know, what is it that goes on in other cultures that makes it easier to talk about, or for different entry points, and it’s not just there. I mean, we didn’t talk about this before, but there are so many different ways to dispose of bodies here that are more natural, or More, you know, nutritious for the planet, you know, and we’re starting to get comfortable with that.

The pictures, I think, there’s a line, one of the KGNU shows I did was about body farms. And there are places where you can donate your body, and they basically use them For forensic exploration, like what happens to an arm that’s in a hot trunk for three years, you know, right, whatever. Those things, sometimes there is actually somebody did a beautiful photography display at the body farm.

Diane Hullet: Yeah, who is it? It’s a, it’s a famous photographer. It’s Sally Mann, Sally Mann. And I actually read her autobiography and she talks a lot about how she got drawn to that and what it was like to go in and photograph these bodies and how she got permission. It’s, it’s kind of a stunning book. Yeah. 

Kim Mooney: Yeah. So you can see that there’s.

People find their way along and I think that the fascination is what leads you into the next ability to look at a picture of the next question or, you know, thing that comes up. Your ability to stay with it rather than just, so the easiest place to start in this country is to go to a deaf cafe. 

Diane Hullet: Yeah. And 

Kim Mooney: these are, there’s like 17, 000 of them around the world and they’re easy forums, they’re all free.

They have no agenda, nobody leads them, you can’t bring in books, and I have, I ran one for years and people would come in and they wouldn’t talk at all, they’d just listen. I mean, how easy is that? And they would range topics from suicide to things like we’re talking about. Um, and but what you start to do is you start to come out of your attitudes from what you saw, maybe you didn’t like the way grandpa died, and to start to thinking about what you find interesting or pleasant.

So, 30 years in this, people say to me, you know, well, how do you, what do you want done with your, what do you think happens after death? And boy, have I, uh, I was a pseudo Buddhist, and then I was a para Catholic, and I don’t know if there was All these different feelings, and now after 30 years, I have to say the only thing I know about where I might go, what might happen, is I hope I get to see my mom again.

What do you want done with your body? Oh, I want it cremated. And then I thought, alcohol, alcohol, you know, do all these things. And then about five years ago, I went back through one of the old books that I have that had traditions in rural Greece. And in Greece, when the woman becomes a widow, she wears black for the rest of her life.

Now, this was traditional Greece. Okay, a long time ago, because now everything’s mixed up and they showed these pictures of them burying a body and the last, the last thing they do before they bury the body is they kiss them on the forehead. And then the body goes into the ground and it does its own decomposition process.

So for me, metaphorically, at the end of your life, you finish your own life out by yourself and then they dig the bones up. And the first thing they do is they kiss them on the forehead. And then they wash the bones in rosemary and red wine, the herb of remembrance. And then the bones are put in a common ossuary with the bones of your loved ones and the people in the village and everything.

So you spend eternity With your family. You’ve gone through. I just went, I want that. I want that’s what you want. 

Diane Hullet: Like where can we have that in Denver? 

Kim Mooney: Where’s the call and offering? I don’t know. You know, I, I, I don’t know, but I do know that that’s just, that’s what I contemplate now is. God, you know, I don’t want to be, um, one of the people who uses the ground up in the cemetery, but I do think I would like the process, the general process of my body going back into the earth naturally, and then my bones being with other, anyway, I don’t know how it will play out, 

Diane Hullet: but it’s, yeah.

I love it. I love it when sometimes I feel like we get these poetic images and it’s so funny because when you talk about that, that resonated so much for me. Like we were talking at the beginning about sort of how you got into this. And I think there are these like stepping stones in one’s life. And I swear one of them for me, I remember exactly where I was driving, driving along the diagonal in Boulder.

And I heard this NPR story about Greek widows and how they wore black. And I just remember. Just feeling that kind of like tingly wake up, like that is what I’m going to do. If my beloved husband dies, that is what I’m going to do is wear black for a year. Like it just felt so right to me now. I pretty much wear black anyway, so maybe that’s not so unusual, but, but I love how sometimes there’s just a resonance with something that’s a story that we hear or like a yes knowing.

So you heard this thing and you were like, yeah, the bones dug up and put in a common area, that’s what I want. So yeah, really, really beautiful. 

Kim Mooney: Yeah, people to just stop and feel that when you run into something or watch a TV show or something and knowing that we need to pay more attention to this when something like that strikes you just take a second and let it resonate because your body and your spirit wants this.

So it doesn’t take much. 

Diane Hullet: Oh, I love that. Another bone story was a friend who, um, found she drove, was driving up a canyon and came across a fox that had just been hit. And she very gently picked the fox up, put it in her car, took it to her mountain property, buried it. And a couple of years later, dug it up and has this fox skeleton.

And I was like, I think you’re so fascinating. Who takes up a dog’s skeleton? Like, who even thinks to do that? You know, I just thought it was so, but she was so reverent about the bones. You know, it was really beautiful. Well, speaking of, um, things that you’re reading at night, I’ll just say this at the end here.

Um, I read a lot of books about end of life and death and all this stuff. It’s all these great things too, but currently I am reading the master and commander series, which is this epic 20 book series written in the 1970s. And it’s about, um, the time of sailing ships when, you know, the late sort of the 1400s to the mid 1800s was the time when sailing ships was the number one trade route, the number one way that people made riches and lost fortunes and, um, the time of pirates and all this.

Anyway. It was my, it’s my father’s favorite series. And I decided I would commit to reading it. So I, I just finished number three, but that’s kind of the equivalent of a cheap cop novel. 

Kim Mooney: Well, you know, if you look carefully, there’s death in everything. 

Diane Hullet: There you go. There you go. Well, thank you so much, Kim, for your time in this little bit of extra bonus time, and I really appreciate it.

Kim Mooney: So 

Diane Hullet: Kayla, let’s just do a couple minutes of a bonus and I’m watching Kayla on this zoom link and I can see she’s got this dog wandering around behind her. So I was curious, like, tell me about this dog. 

Kayla Nakano: This is Yoshi. Um, she is, uh, 10 years old and we found her. Her story is actually really interesting.

Crazy. We found her in a box on the side of the road in Southern Colorado when she was a puppy. So we’ve had her since she was about, uh, eight weeks old. And, uh, we love her to death. She’s the baby of the family. 

Diane Hullet: Wow. Wow. That reminds me, my cousin had a dog that she named Lucky that she found on a roadside in Texas and she was riding her bike, I think on like a highway, like this highway with a wide.

You know, a wide shoulder and she was riding along and she thought she heard this little sound and she thought, Oh no, it couldn’t have been anything. She went a little further and she said, I’ve got to go back and check. And she turned around and went back and checked. And there was this puppy in the ditch and it was, um, turned out to be blind.

And that was probably why it had been abandoned, but she called him Lucky and had him for, you know, 12, 13 years. Yeah. 

Kayla Nakano: Oh, wow. 

Diane Hullet: That’s 

Kayla Nakano: so sad. 

Diane Hullet: I mean, I think the intensity of what animals go through and kind of some of their stories of how they’re abandoned and found is really something. 

Kayla Nakano: Absolutely. Yeah, no, working with rescues, you really hear like crazy stories about that kind of thing and, and people and, and their resiliency to whatever happened, like you would never know.

And granted, she was very young, but you would never know that she went through any of that because her resiliency was just so great. And she’s, you know, The best. 

Diane Hullet: Wow. What am I? I have three dogs currently and one of my dogs, Kaya, the oldest one is just, she’s one of the brightest dogs we’ve ever had. And she, I thought it was so interesting because I like to say she named herself.

She was a rescue who was brought to Colorado from Kansas, and she and her brother were picked up and they were these beautiful kind of lab shepherd, uh, buff colored dogs. So she was at a foster place in Denver and we went down to meet her and we took her for a little walk and my husband and daughter and I, we come up with all these names to name this possible dog and we’re walking along with her and I swear like from her heart to my heart, it was like Kaya.

And I was like, and it came again, like Kaya. And I said, um, I think her name’s Kaya. And my husband and daughter were like, Oh, okay. And like, we’d been arguing for two days what to name the dog. And we were just like, Oh, okay. That’s her name. And you know, she went on to learn how to open doors and, um, Oh gosh, she just, she’s been a real interesting, smart, smart, one of those just real, um, deep companions.

And, uh, I will mourn her loss greatly. She’s 13 and a half. 

Kayla Nakano: That is odd that you say that, because we had a Kaya. Yeah, we had a Kaya. She actually just passed away in September, and she was 13 when she passed away. And she was the smartest, and her name actually was Kayla. And we had to change it because it was odd to be like, Hey Kayla, come here Kayla, come over here Kayla.

So we ended up changing her name and I wanted something that sounds similar to Kayla, but not Kayla, so we named her Kaya. And she took to it too, like, 

Diane Hullet: immediately. That’s crazy. That’s such a great. Wow. What a good synchronicity. 

Kayla Nakano: What 

Diane Hullet: are some other great dog names you’ve had? 

Kayla Nakano: Um, well, we had Athena. Athena was the first.

And then we also have Apollo. And that’s, uh, we named him Apollo because Athena and Apollo are siblings in mythology. So that’s why we, we decided to do that. The gods have landed. Totally. And then the, the last one that we have, everybody always gets a kick out of his name’s Optimus Prime. I love 

Diane Hullet: it. And do you use his full name regularly?

Elmione is in trouble. 

Kayla Nakano: Exactly. Just like a child. Yep. We always call him Optimus. 

Diane Hullet: It’s really great. It’s really great. And there’s something about dogs. We, we had a dog named Worf, W O R F, that my husband was deeply, deeply attached to. And in fact, when we went on to have children, my husband would say to people, you know, I’m every bit as fond of these children as I was my dog.

That’s why it’s been kind of our joke. He was very attached to this dog. It was really something. 

Kayla Nakano: Yeah, that’s how I 

Diane Hullet: am. I love the way dogs show up in dreams too. Have you had any dreams of your dogs? 

Kayla Nakano: Yes. Um, well recently with Kaya passing away, she, she’s shown up a couple of times and it’s, it’s just interesting because it’s, it’s, Like, like they’re different, like they’re different in your dreams.

They’re them, they’re themselves, but they’re almost like human ish. 

Diane Hullet: Yeah. When my dogs have comes in dreams, they, they, they communicate more clearly. Like it’s like the, um, the, the, um, difference of communication between humans and dogs has disappeared. And so in the dream world, there’s just this more direct communication or something.

That sounds pretty woo woo, but it’s just true. Yeah. Well. Great. Well, I just really appreciate that through your own loss of Athena, when she was just a little seven month old pup, you decided to, you know, you saw this need for shared, um, conversation and shared information about pet loss and started your podcast.

What, when did, how long ago did you start it? Um, we’re going on 

Kayla Nakano: two years, so we’ll be on two years, um, in January. And how 

Diane Hullet: many episodes in are you? 50. Wow. That’s awesome. That’s so great. So people can look that up. You can find out about Kayla’s podcast at Rainbow Bridge Connection Podcast. And I think really find a lot more information than what you and I’ve covered in our conversation that goes up in late January and this bonus episode.

I think, you know, peruse the, uh, peruse the podcast. Table of contents, so to speak, there, whatever the modern world is, where it is for a podcast, it’s not table of contents. What do you call it? List of episodes. 

Kayla Nakano: Yep. Yep. And I always put a description that’s very clear on what each episode is, just in case, you know, you want to listen to a specific topic or a specific, um, guest and you can go on and, and check it out.

Makes sense. 

Diane Hullet: Makes sense. Are you reading anything 

Kayla Nakano: about animals at the moment? Um, not in the moment. I’m in my master’s program, so I don’t read unless I have to. 

Diane Hullet: Yeah, no kidding. What are you getting a master’s in? 

Kayla Nakano: Um, in psychology. 

Diane Hullet: Fantastic. With a specialist, with a specializing in grief or pets. Yes. 

Kayla Nakano: Yep.

I want to do a special, specialize in, um, specifically grief of companion animal loss. Wow. 

Diane Hullet: Does that mean you’re making your own major or is somebody, I mean, does somebody have a master’s program in that? 

Kayla Nakano: So you would get a master’s in psychology and then you would go, um, there’s actually a program in, um, Tennessee where they have like a certificate program specifically for grief with companion animals.

Diane Hullet: Amazing. Like, connected to a vet school? Um, I believe 

Kayla Nakano: so. Yeah, I believe so. I think it’s connected to a vet school because it also, it incorporates not only grief, but it incorporates, like, working with, um, people who are specialized in animal related fields as well. 

Diane Hullet: Right, right. I have a friend who works, um, in a, in a, Corporation that owns that offices and it’s it is an incredibly demanding and exhausting and grief filled job, right?

So you go into the veterinarian field because you love animals and then you end up euthanizing tons of animals and working sick and ill animals It’s it’s an intense program. So it is incredible that there’s there’s support for managing all that 

Kayla Nakano: Yeah, actually, there’s um, there’s a non profit called Nomvi and I will, like, they’ve been on our show, I support them wholeheartedly, and what they do is, their specific non profit is based off of helping, uh, animal related professions get counseling, get help, and all that stuff, so that, you know, there’s, the, the rate of suicide for veterinarians is, like, extremely high.

It’s high! 

Diane Hullet: Nomvi, 

Kayla Nakano: N O M V I. Um, it’s N O M V, it’s like, or N O M V, N O M V, sorry. Wait a minute, that sounds wrong. How the heck do you spell that? 

Diane Hullet: Well, awesome. Thanks for that resource, Kayla. All right, this has been the bonus episode with Kayla Nakano of NOMV. Rainbow Bridge Connection Podcast. Thanks Kayla.

Kayla Nakano: Thank you. 

Diane Hullet: You’ve been listening to the Best Life Best Death Podcast. You can find out more about my work at bestlifebestdeath. com. You can find out about the work Kim does at practicallydying. com with a dash in the middle. Practically dying.com.

Picture of Diane Hullet

Diane Hullet

End of Life Doula, Podcaster, and founder of Best Life Best Death.