About Us


A Sacred Passing will introduce a wide array of options for end-of-life care.

We offer planning, education, coaching and facilitation to fully support your end-of-life choices.

We help you have the highest quality of life possible right up to the end.
We are a supportive companion and guide to assist you towards a more conscious dying experience.


As a Non-profit Corporation, designated by IRS code 501c3, we are grateful to receive any donation you may feel inspired to offer and are happy to send you a receipt for your taxes.

How can we help?
The goal of the Sacred Passing team is to assist you in making plans early in your life for what you would like done as you come to your end-of-life. We can help you write up those plans, get organized, have the conversation with  your family and support network, connect you with resources you may need along your journey and be there to support you and your loved ones in the dying process and into the final resting of your body and the healing process of the ones left behind.
The team at A Sacred Passing are grounded, loving, compassionate people who speak with one voice and provide a unified level of care and presence.
Working Together
The Sacred Passing team works hand in hand with local Hospice and Palliative care teams as well as other health care practitioners and care partners. We strive to create an interconnected web of support for end-of-life care.
Though A Sacred Passing does not provide medical care, we are happy to help connect you to the resources you need medically.
You don’t have to be at the end-of-life to use A Sacred Passing. It is best to have your thoughts and plans about the future well  defined and redefined as you go through all stages of life.

The Vigil
The vigil or wake, happens when the body of the deceased is kept at home for up to three days.  The 4 main reason for doing a vigil are these: In this process we honor the spirit of the deceased, it creates a deeper connection into and through the grieving cycle for the family and friends, helps bring death back as a natural process into the community culture and lastly, support the absorption of the sacred elements back to source.

What is a Death Midwife?
A Death Midwife is a trained professional with expertise and skills in supporting the dying person and their support network of family, loved ones and friends, to maintain the highest quality of life during the end-of-life process. Death Midwives are often called Home Funeral Guides.
Death Midwives provide the dying person with individualized care uniquely suited to their physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and cultural needs. They are a non-medical supportive companion and guide to assist the dying person toward a more conscious dying experience.  A Death Midwife usually offers a variety of options and seeks to minimize unnecessary interventions at the end of life. 

Scope of Practice

  • Believes that death and dying are a normal life process.
  • Understands the physiology of death and the emotional needs of the dying.
  • Assists the dying person preparing for and carrying out the death plan.
  • Stays by the side of the dying person throughout the dying process.
  • Provides emotional support, physical  comfort measures, an objective viewpoint and assistance to the dying person in getting the information they need to make good decisions.
  • Facilitates communication between the dying person, their support network and the medical providers.
  • They often help the dying to leave the body in the most graceful, supported manner possible.
  • Can offer spiritual support as appropriate for the dying person and supporters.
  • Empowers families to reclaim the healing ritual of a home vigil or wake and the 
    possibility of a funeral at home.
  • Preparing the body for burial or cremation.
  • Filling out the death-related paperwork such as death certificate.
  • Can help facilitate the transportation of the body.
  • Can help facilitate the final disposition.

Team Members Bios:
A peek at a few of our crew members.

Ashley Benem LMP, Death Midwife, Minister, Executive Director

ashley-benem-death-midwifeAshley is a licensed massage therapist, Death Midwife and Minister. She is the Executive Director of A Sacred Passing: Death Midwifery Service in Bellingham Washington. She is the creator of the Art of Death Exhibition and Conference and has had the privilege of serving on several steering committees and action groups to support the shift towards a more human centered Palliative and End of Life Care practice. She has been one of the organizers for the Whatcom County chapter of the Death Café. She also offers training in Death Midwifery Care.

Ashley has been working with the sick and injured since 1991. She initially received training as an EMT and Paramedic, working for many years on an ambulance crew. Later, after the birth of her son, she became a licensed as a massage therapist and Birth Doula spending several years focused on empowering the birth experience for families. Feeling that come to it’s still point, Ashley has followed the energetic pendulum swing to care for the other end of life’s cycle, working to empower families through the dying process. She has had extensive training as a home funeral guide including: being present, grounded, knowledgeable, skilled and compassionate with coaching families on the options and practical application of skills surrounding the end of life process. 

Duncan Saunders, Death Doula, Minister, Celtic Harper Therapist M.A./A.B.S.

Duncan Saunders, Death Doula, Minister, Celtic Harper Therapist M.A./A.B.S.Duncan is a Celtic harper who uses the harp to bring comfort, care and easing of distress and pain for individuals who are in hospitals, palliative care and hospice. He began his research and studies into harp therapy 30 years ago, exploring the work of The Chalice of Respose, the inspiration by Tina Tourin of the International Harp Therapy program and the work done by Music-Thanatologists.  

He knows from years of personal experience and clinical research and documentation that the harp brings a singular form of healing who hear the music. It is both a joy and a service to bring the harp to the bedsides and presence of those in pain, distress and facing difficult passages of life and death. He has a Master’s degree in counseling and 12 years experience working in psychiatric units and hospital wards. As well as being a Minister and Death Doula. This work with the harp is only amplified by Duncan’s presence of gentle compassion as he sits with the family of a dying person. 

Helga DeLiban Death Doula, Minister, LVN, AA 

Helga DeLiban Death Doula, MinisterHelga is a dedicated and compassionate woman with extensive experience as a Licensed Vocational nurse for the past 28 years. She is a Reiki Master and certified in Touch for Health.

In 2004 Helga’s husband of 32 years died suddenly. Her grief overwhelmed her and she turned inward to find insight. In that process Helga felt her husband’s presence and her communications with him led her to a transformation in body, mind, and spirit. Since 2009 she has been a volunteer with Whatcom Hospice and at Whatcom Hospice House. Helga strives to cultivate presence and personal awareness in death, dying and living well embrace the power of their spirit within.


Thomas McCarthy, Death Doula, Minister

Thomas McCarthy, Death Doula, MinisterTom recently moved from Seattle to Bellingham to pursue his dream of supporting individuals and their loved ones with end-of-life care as a Death Midwife.  Previously, he has worked with elementary school children through Head Start and with developmentally disabled adults transitioning out of full-time care and into semi-independent living.  For the past several years, Tom has been working in the building industry and is now seeking to transition to end of life care, where he feels called to serve.

Through a series of personal experiences with illness, suffering, death and grief, Tom has developed a deeper sense of appreciation for life and most especially for those last precious moments leading up to the end of life and beyond.



Katherine Kipps, Death Doula, RYT, LMP, Minister, Reiki Master

Katherine Kipps, Death Doula, RYT, LMP, Minister, Reiki MasterKatherine came to her curiosity around death and dying as a young girl when she was a part of her mother’s dying process. That experience was the catalyst for a lifelong sense of wonder and awe of the infinite world beyond life.

She began her inquiry into the spirit world through yoga and the healing arts, a practice that led her to teach at retreat centers, clinics and with unlikely clients around the world. After a decade of dedicated study, including a BA with a focus in Nonprofit work, licensing as a Massage Practitioner and becoming a Certified Yoga Instructor, she learned that through this offering she was serving as an advocate toward more connective and healthy lifestyles that truly honor the cycle of existence. She connected with the mission of A Sacred Passing through the Art of Death Conference, and continued on to receive her Death Doula training.


Kristi Krein, Death Doula, Minister

Kristi-Krien-Death-Doula-MinisterKristi’s interest in doula work was sparked by her extensive background in home care.  Working for years in this field has helped her understand the great need in our culture for loving, dignified care for those in need of assistance and that comprehensive, quality care can happen in the comfort and safety of our own homes.  She is currently certified as a HCA by DSHS and continues to study compassionate care for alzheimer’s, dementia, and palliative care.

Reverence for the human body and its natural cycles awakened while Kristi studied dance and somatics at Western Washington University.  She currently works as a freelance performance artist and dancer, teaching creative movement workshops at conferences and studios across the country.  Her love of movement has shown her the sacred freedom of living and dying fully embodied and the deeply therapeutic nature of dance.

Completing her Master’s degree in Linguistics at the University of Washington as well as a lifetime of global travel experience has taught Kristi the value of cultural competency and sensitivity.  She delights in the spectrum of cultural possibility and seeks in every area of her work to recognize and honor the beliefs and practices of those around her with an open, learning, celebratory heart.

Support Us


As a Non-profit Corporation 501c3, your tax deductible donation can help provide end-of-life care options for folks with limited funding, as well as fund our continued efforts to bring free public education about end of life options to the community.


We are grateful to receive any donation you may feel inspired to offer and are happy to send you a receipt for your taxes.