How Grief Sparked SF Man’s Quest to Confront Mortality

Moved by the deaths of his mother and later his mother-in-law, Ned Buskirk decided to bring people together to collectively grieve, connect and find more “aliveness.”

Buskirk’s San Francisco-based “You’re Going to Die” (YG2D) started as an open mic poetry and music project in his basement apartment in 2009. At that time, he had no idea it would later evolve into a registered nonprofit reaching music fans, hospice patients and people in prisons.

“It really started to be an intentional space that I needed and so as it turns out other people needed, too, measured by I’d say the successes we’ve had and that we are still around after all these years,” he told Solace.

The project soon grew into a larger group of workshops and concerts, eventually spawning several peripheral programs through its nonprofit umbrella.

The group’s mission is to bring “communities creatively into the conversation of death and dying, inspiring life by unabashedly sourcing our shared mortality with concerts, open mics and workshops for the general populations and programming specific to hospice patients and our prison community.” It has been the venue for debuting songs by both professional and amateur musicians alike.

Among the nonprofit’s programs is Songs for Life, a volunteer-based project to bring music to people in hospice. It was created in 2018 to provide hospice patients “something made for and about them and a way to be present as their greater circle commemorates them.”

Buskirk is not a musician himself but has long surrounded himself by others who are. “I’ve tried to play guitar, I’ve tried to play the banjo. I’ve taken lessons. I just don’t have it in me to stay committed and practice enough. (But) In my life as far back as high school, I just attract musician friends.” Those friends have helped him grow the nonprofit into what it is today. “Music has been medicine for me like for so many others.”

Buskirk says he was also inspired by his work in improv and acting. “There are so many ways this thing has unfolded. I can’t even take responsibility for it.”

In addition to the music project, YG2D also joined forces with the Humane Prison Project and Brothers Keepers (a suicide prevention project) to work inside San Quentin Prison after being invited to join them at an open mic.

Alive Inside came into the world when Buskirk realized his group could best support them by listening and accompanying them with his network of musicians.

It is Buskirk’s hope that the new year will bring his organization and all of its programming new opportunities to have in-person events in the future.

To learn more and to find events both virtual and in-person, visit the ‘You’re Going to Die’ website. Ned Buskirk also hosts a podcast exploring issues of mortality and grief. Grief and Healing workshops take place monthly.

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